Category Archives: vintage Vogue patterns from the 1970s

One Year at a Time

Let’s start with 2016. Although, truthfully, right now in January 2016, I could probably plan at least three years’ worth of sewing. That is how many patterns and fabrics I have tucked away, waiting for their turn. But it is time to concentrate on the year at hand and get on with it!

Some of the year is shaped by events that I know will be happening – such as weddings and fancy parties. Some of it will be devoted to little granddaughters who are already growing too fast for me to indulge all my sewing fantasies for them.   And some of it will be my own self-determined challenges – coats and dresses I want to make – that right now are looking like small Mt. Everests, waiting to be conquered!

I probably should be sewing right now for Spring and Summer, but I have wools that are too enticing to ignore during these current Winter months:

Wool challis on the left and vintage cashmere on the right.

Wool challis on the left and vintage cashmere on the right.

Navy and white houndstooth.

Navy and white houndstooth.

Some cute and classic cottons for little girls should be able to find themselves tucked in amongst my plans for Springtime.

The buzzy bee fabric is a vintage cotton. The blue gingham is new.

The buzzy bee fabric is a vintage cotton. The blue gingham is new.

Looking towards Spring weddings already on the calendar, I am excited for the opportunity to use this amazing printed silk for a dress and perhaps pairing it with the plain yellow silk taffeta left over from my fancy dress from last Summer.

One year at a time

I have so many vintage linens in my collection, that it is difficult to narrow down my focus, but here are four that just may see the sewing shears this year:

These are all vintage Moygashel linen.

These are all vintage Moygashel linen.

This vintage, authentic Diane von Furstenberg cotton blend knit has been calling my name for quite some time.

One year at a time = DvF

Hopefully this fabric and this pattern will finally find each other this year!

One year at a time - DvF pattern

The sewing year will no doubt end next Fall with a return to wool. The polka dotted wool is similar to the wool in a dress I made in Fall of 2015. It is from Mendel Goldberg Fabrics in NYC.

As one who loves polka dots, I could not pass up this wool/silk blend fabric.

As one who loves polka dots, I could not pass up this wool/silk blend fabric.

When I purchased it, several swatches of boucle were in the package – and I was in a swoon over this blue and pink sample:

How wonderful that Pantone's two "colors of the year" - pink and blue - are the color way for this boucle.

How wonderful that Pantone’s two “colors of the year” – pink and blue – are the colorway for this boucle.

Lucky me to open a box on Christmas morning to find 2 yards of it (thank you to my dear children!) – enough for another Classic French Jacket.

2 full yards of this glorious boucle! What a wonderful gift!

Two full yards of this glorious boucle! What a wonderful gift!

Some of the patterns I might be using this year are all vintage ones that deserve attention. I tidied up the boxes where I keep my pattern collection and these just happened to be some which would NOT go back in silence, so here they are with all their wily temptations!

One of my big projects for this year is this coat.

One of my big projects for 2016 is this coat.

I have been wanting to make the dress on the right for quite a while - this may be the year it happens!

I have been wanting to make the dress on the right for quite a while – this may be the year it happens!

I really like this shirtwaist dress (a little shorter, of course) and I envision it made out of a lovely summer linen.

I really like this shirtwaist dress (a little shorter, of course) and I envision it made out of a lovely summer linen.

I think I could make either view of this dress over and over and not get tired of it.

I think I could make either view of this dress over and over and not get tired of it.

One thing I learned a long time ago is the importance of flexibility in planning my sewing year. Sometimes things happen that impede my sewing plans. Sometimes I change my mind. And always, always, I plan too much. And when (not if) that happens, there is always 2017 right around the corner.

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Filed under Boucle for French style jackets, Diane von Furstenberg Vogue patterns, Linen, Moygashel linen, Polka dots, Sewing for children, Uncategorized, Vintage fabric, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1950s, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1970s, woolens, Wrap dresses

Saddle Up!

Western style (as in American cowgirl and cowboy) is not something that regularly occupies my mind – until I see something that is quintessentially Western fashion, and then it grabs my attention. I have often wondered if the styling on the pattern envelope for my color-blocked coat, featuring the model in a Western-style cowboy-inspired hat, may have been added to my great predilection for this coat!

Coats of certain length - 7

Because I knew I was going to be spending a good bit of my 2015 Summer in Wyoming (in the American West), I thought it might be fun to see if I could find Vogue patterns (or anything else) featured in any of my vintage Vogue Pattern Book Magazines, that were clearly Western style.  Well, there is no doubt about the Western theme of this decorator fabric pictured in an ad in the February/March issue of VPB Magazine:

What little cowboy - or cowgirl - in 1958 would not love curtains made of this fabric?

What little cowboy – or cowgirl – in 1958 would not love curtains made of this fabric?

And what could be more Western than cowboy and cowgirl shirts? The July/August 1974 issue of VPB Magazine clearly met my challenge:

Western style - shirts, no 1

Western style - shirts, no 2

Somehow, however, I just can’t see myself making a cowgirl shirt. Out here in Wyoming, it would look like it belongs. Wearing something like this at home in Pennsylvania might get heads turning for the wrong reason. So my search continued for something else that evoked the West without screaming it. Who would have ever thought I was going to find it in the same Vogue Pattern Book Magazine that featured Diane von Furstenberg on its cover?

Sure enough, this September/October 1976 issue featured a coat constructed out of an American-made blanket. (Anyone who reads my blog will perhaps remember the jumper I made from an Irish blanket last year. When one can’t find yardgoods, buy a blanket and see what happens!)

Western style - coat-1

Accompanying the picture in the magazine were these instructions for making a “blanket coat” using Vogue pattern 9329:

Western style - coat instructions

Forty years later the same thing is being done with Pendleton blankets. I never miss the opportunity to look at the handsome Western and Native American-inspired Pendleton blankets in the Pendleton Store in Jackson, Wyoming. Hanging on one of the clothing racks in the store was this custom-made coat:

This particular coat was made for a very large lady, which just goes to show that a twin size blanket is sufficient for all sizes of coats.

This particular coat was made for a very large lady, which just goes to show that a twin size blanket is sufficient for all sizes of coats.

The back of the coat.

The back of the coat.

Made, as stated above, from a twin-size blanket, the coat can be made in long, medium or short lengths, with hood or without hood, with pockets or without them – and it is reversible, too. Customers in the store pick out the blanket they like, measurements are taken: both are sent off to a coat-maker, with whom the store has a relationship, and returned about 6 weeks later. The construction is very much the same as what is detailed in the instructions above; however, the coat-maker removes the narrow wool binding from the blanket before cutting into it. Then she uses that binding for all the edges of the coat.

The lovely staff in the Pendleton store pulled out this blanket to tempt me:

The grey, white and periwinkle blue color way would definitely compliment me, I think.

The grey, white and periwinkle blue colorway would definitely compliment me, I think.

So far, however, I have resisted the urge to make a blanket coat, although it might be a fun project with just the right blanket – sometime. But for now I am saddling up to head East, home to beloved Pennsylvania, back to animals and pets I love, back to my by-now-overgrown gardens, and back to my snug little sewing machine who must be wondering where I have been!

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Filed under Coats, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1970s, woolens

The Diane von Furstenberg Formula

Has there ever been a more iconic cover for a pattern/sewing magazine?

Instantly recognizable in her classic wrap dress, Diane von Furstenberg was featured in this September/October 1976 issue of Vogue Pattern Book Magazine. Her dress dynasty had begun in 1970, driven by her “dedication to dresses that fulfill a woman’s fashion needs from career time to cocktails…” As her business grew over the next few years, it seemed that everyone wanted one of her dresses in their wardrobe. I was no different. You can only imagine my surprise and absolute delight when my husband gave me a DvF dress for Christmas in 1975. Although I have, over the years, discarded most of my dresses from earlier times, this one still hangs in my cedar closet:

Long sleeved and with a separate tie belt.

Long sleeved and with a separate tie belt.

There is a center front seam to this dress which helps to make the skirt flow beautifully.

There is a center front seam to this dress which helps to make the skirt flow beautifully.

The label gives some fascinating information. It gives the composition of the fabric, – 50% cotton and 50% rayon. Interestingly, it includes an “umlaut” over the “u” in Furstenberg, which seems to have been dropped shortly thereafter. And the size 10 would now be a size 6 in USA standards!

DvF label

By 1976, Vogue Patterns had entered into a partnership with DvF, with exclusive rights to offer her dress patterns for sale. This was such a smart thing to do for both Vogue Patterns and the Princess – as they referred to her. Even better was when Diane von Furstenberg-designed printed fabric was available in bolts at your local fabric store. I remember having a difficult time finding these yard goods – they sold out so quickly as home dressmakers rushed to make their own genuine DvF wrap dresses. Vogue Pattern Magazine summed it all up quite nicely:

“Almost as important as the designs are the Diane-designed prints which turn her very flattering basic designs into that very special Von Furstenberg look. That is why, we are doubly pleased to tell you that, thanks to Cohama, you can make your Vogue Von Furstenberg in authentic Von Furstenberg prints.” First available in October 1976, many of these prints are still recognizable today as DvF prints, and they still look fresh and stylish!

A sampling of some DvF fabrics.

A sampling of some DvF fabrics.

Here is the editor-in-chief of Vogue Pattern Magazine, Judy Espinar, with Diane von Furstenberg.

Here is the editor-in-chief of Vogue Pattern Magazine, Judy Espinar, with Diane von Furstenberg.

Another beautiful print!

Another beautiful print!

I might not have been able to get my hands on any of that Cohama fabric back in the 1970s, but thanks to this blog and one of my readers with unused DvF yardages, I have been able to fulfill a long-held wish, having purchased two lengths of the Cohama fabric a number of months ago.

A DvF wrap dress seemed to be the perfect follow-up to my last complicated project, and so I retrieved this fabric from my fabric storage closet:

Cohama blue DvF fabric

I washed it in cold water, gentle cycle, and it came out fresh and like new. I was struck by the quality of the knit fabric, and of course, wanted to know its composition. This is another time when the vintage Vogue Pattern Magazines come in so handy. Each featured pattern is pictured in thumb-nail size in a detailed Patterns Guide in the back of the magazine, giving information on fabrics, accessories, yardages needed, etc. Quickly I was able to determine that the Cohama fabric is Avril II rayon/cotton knit. This fabric is lighter in weight than my “store-bought” DvF dress. It is tightly knit, silky soft, and, like my “store-bought” dress, it cannot be “seen through,” making it easy to wear!

Along the selvedge - the mark of an authentic DvF print!

Along the selvedge – the mark of an authentic DvF print!

I had already made a dress from this pattern three years ago. I have enjoyed wearing it, although the fabric is a bit heavy for the design. So I thought it would be good to make it again, this time in my authentic DvF print.

Decisions #3

I also determined that I had just enough fabric to squeak out this dress in the short sleeveless version. These wrap dresses take an enormous amount of fabric! It makes sense when you think about the overlapping necessary to make the dress wearable. When I spread out my fabric, I thought to myself, “Oh, I have lots of this – no problem!” I should have learned by now not to think such things! It quickly became apparent that I would have to be creative (again!) in my lay-out if I were to be able to make this dress.

First I made a muslin pattern with separate pieces for the reverses. This was so I could lay the pattern pieces out singly, not folded. Ever since sewing with Susan Khalje’s couture techniques, this is how I like to cut my fabric anyway, so I am accustomed to this extra step. But this time, I cut off the seam allowances (except on the long belt pieces), just as you would do when you are making a classic French jacket.

Showing a partial lay-out

Showing a partial lay-out

With a French jacket, you are leaving huge seam allowances (usually as much as 2” all around). With this, my seam allowances had to be much smaller and in some cases a bit less than 5/8” in order to fit all the pieces on the fabric. I had to really concentrate when I was cutting out the pieces, remembering to add seam allowances by “eyeballing” them. Now I am in the process of thread-tracing around each piece of the muslin pattern, to set my sewing line. This seems like a lot of extra work – and it is – but I determined this to be the only fool-proof way to make it work! (I did not want to using tracing paper and wheel to mark the seam lines, as I would risk markings showing up on the right sides.)

The back bodice piece, ready for thread tracing on the sewing lines.

The back bodice piece, ready for thread tracing on the sewing lines.

I am excited about this dress! Since I have already made this pattern once, I know what needs to be tweaked. And – I am excited that I do not have to line it, it has no buttons or buttonholes, and I know it will be easy-wearing. That, to me, is a formula for fashion sewing success.

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Filed under Uncategorized, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1970s, Wrap dresses

My Suit Dress Fully Evolved – Finally! – Part 5

Can it really be that May will arrive in a few days? If that is true, then I am only about 2 months behind in my sewing schedule. But who’s keeping track? I’m happy that I have plowed through to finish my wool suit dress, even though it will immediately go into my cedar closet for safe storage until next Fall.

When I fell off the edge of the world after Part 4 (only figuratively, thank goodness!), I was starting on the sheath dress. I had decided to add a collar to it, so that I could use that fourth vintage button (I had already used three on the jacket itself). Matching the windowpane plaid on the collar section took some special attention, as this photo shows:

Collared sheath I underlined the collar with the lining fabric, and I made a working bound buttonhole instead of just sewing the button in place. Anything to make it more involved, right?

Detail of the button on the collar.

Detail of the button on the collar.

Lining the collar with silk charmeuse reduced bulk and helps it lay flat.

Lining the collar with silk charmeuse reduced bulk and helps it lay flat.

From that point on, it was a straightforward sheath dress. I love a sheath dress. I think it is such a flattering silhouette, and very feminine. As far as I am concerned, one can never have too many sheath dresses (just as one can never have too many shoes). Speaking of shoes, I decided this outfit needed complementary shoes! What do you think?

collared sheath

I wear a lot of red and blue, so I expect these shoes to serve me well!

I wear a lot of red and blue, so I expect these shoes to serve me well!

It turns out that even a simple sheath can take a lot of time to make when one is using couture techniques: underlining of silk organza; interior seams catch-stitched; hand-picked zipper; instead of facings, neck and armholes finished with lining-abutted edges, then pick-stitched for stability. The silk charmeuse lining in the dress matches the jacket lining and is an extravagance, I will admit. But it feels heavenly, and adds a fluidity to the dress which is a good match for the butter-soft cashmere wool fashion fabric.

Suit dress

Shown with the jacket unbuttoned.

Shown with the jacket unbuttoned.

Suit dress

A close-up look...

A close-up look…

... and another one.

… and another one.

And a partial back view.

And a partial back view.

I am happy I added the collar to the dress, as that extra detail seems to help the dress stand on its own if/when I take the jacket off. Framing the face is always a good fashion decision, and I think the collar helps in that regard.

Just the dress!

Just the dress!

Suit dress

So happy this is finished!

So happy this is finished!

I consider finishing this outfit a major accomplishment!  So what’s next? Something easy or something more complex? Those questions to be answered soon, with this caveat: it will most definitely be something for Spring/Summer!

 

Details:

Navy blue Cashmere fashion fabric:  Britex Fabrics, San Francisco, CA

Silk charmeuse lining fabric:  Britex Fabrics

Buttons:  vintage Ultra Kraft, ca. 1950s

Shoes: Ferragamo

Patterns:  Jacket: vintage Jo Mattli Vogue Designer pattern; Dress: vintage Vogue blouse pattern combined with new Butterick dress pattern

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Filed under Buttons - choosing the right ones, couture construction, Dressmaker suits, Shoes to make an outfit complete, Suit dresses, vintage buttons, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1970s, woolens

The Evolution of a Suit Dress – Part 3: Finished Jacket

It is a fairly well-known fact that making a classic French “Chanel-like” jacket takes about (or at least!) 70 dedicated hours of sewing time. I did not keep track of the hours I spent on my Jo Mattli-designed jacket, but I am guessing that it rivals – in time spent sewing – both of the classic French jackets I have made. However, I am not complaining. I would commit to it all over again. And just think – I still have to make the coordinating dress for this jacket!

Mattli jacket But it is finished, and happily so. One of the true joys of sewing is the ability it gives us to make some stylistic changes, add embellishments if desired, and use our heads to determine what works and what doesn’t work for the fabric we are using and the intended usage of our garments. While I did not make any stylistic changes to this jacket, I did add my own “dressmaker details” while stitching my way through this project. But first a few more regular details, picking up where I left off in my last post.

1) To finish the underside of the bound buttonholes, I used organza patches. I have started using this method all the time, as it makes such a neat, fool-proof finish.

The silk organza patch is sewn onto the right side.  After cutting and clipping the corners - carefully! - you turn the organza and you have a perfectly finished opening to back up to your bound buttonhole.  then it is easy to sew the two sides together very neatly.

The silk organza patch is sewn onto the right side. After cutting and clipping the corners – carefully! – you turn the organza and you have a perfectly finished opening to back up to your bound buttonhole. Then it is easy to sew the two sides together very neatly.

2) Even though the entire jacket is underlined with silk organza, I added another layer of silk organza “interfacing” to the hemline, as directed in the pattern instructions.

Mattli jacket

I always like to baste the hem along the bottom edge to stabilize it until the jacket is complete.

I always like to baste the hem along the bottom edge to stabilize it until the jacket is complete.

3) I used black “cigarette” which I purchase from Susan Khalje’s store for the sleeve headings. I doubled and graduated the two layers to achieve the correct amount of sleeve–cap cushioning. Unfortunately, no photos were able to pick up the details in this – too much black and navy blue and not enough contrast!

This is what the "cigarette" looks like.

This is what the “cigarette” looks like.

One of the interesting construction details in this design is the notched collar. Most notched collars are seamed at the “notch,”,joining the upper collar and the front facing and forming a “V”.

This diagram from The Vogue Sewing Book. c. 1970, Butterick Division, New York, New York, shows a classic notched collar.

This diagram from The Vogue Sewing Book. c. 1970, Butterick Division, New York, New York, shows a classic notched collar.

However, the collar in this Mattli design is formed by extensions of the front facing, with a center back seam on the upper-collar portion of the facings.   Hopefully these photos will explain better than words can:

You can see there is no seam at the "notch."

You can see there is no seam at the “notch.”

Here is the seam at the back upper collar.

Here is the seam at the back upper collar.

While I was contemplating the lining for the jacket, I thought it would add just a really special touch if I did a interior bias piping to set off the lining where it joins the jacket along the front edges and around the neck. Normally this is made out of silk, but I did not have any light-weight silk which was the correct color of red. However, I did find some scraps left over from a red wool challis maternity dress I made for myself over 34 years ago. (Yes, you read that correctly!) Very light in weight – and the exact color I needed – made it the perfect fabric for this detail.

I cut a bias strip one inch in width and folded it in half.  I guess this proves it pays to save scraps!?

I cut a bias strip one inch in width and folded it in half. I guess this proves it pays to save scraps!?

This is such an easy flourish to do, and it adds such a professional touch.  Adding this flat “piping” is quickly becoming a standard for me when I make jackets or coats. Once you have your bias strip cut, folded in half and pressed, all you need to do is baste it in place along the line where the lining will be hand-stitched to the jacket interior.

The bias "piping" basted in place.

The bias “piping” basted in place. Click on the photo to see it close-up.

And here’s what the finished lining looks like:

Mattli jacket

Here is the back neck edge.

Here is the back neck edge.

I really like this extra flourish.

I really like this extra flourish.

Now – true confessions!  After top-stitching the sleeve edges, the collar and most of one front, I decided I did not like it.  I thought it detracted from the windowpane of the fabric, so I took it all out.  NO top-stitching – for me – on this jacket!

Finally, I made a small change to the back hem of the jacket. Can you figure out what it is? (A previous photo of the jacket back will also give you a clue.)

Mattli jacket I used a trick I learned from my French Jacket class with Susan Khalje: I added a slight curve to the hem and lengthened it by about a half-inch, graduating it back to the prescribed hemline at the side back seams. I love this graceful detail. I believe it will be especially effective when it is paired with the dress. (This photo also shows that all the hours I spent on the layout, making sure I had matched the plaid, was time well spent!)

Speaking of the dress (and matching more plaid) . . .   I never imagined I wouldn’t have this entire ensemble completed by about now. So – it looks like I’ll still be sewing on wool when Spring arrives. Hopefully by the time Spring departs I will have moved on to something more seasonal!

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Filed under bound buttonholes, couture construction, Dressmaker details, piping, Suit dresses, Uncategorized, underlinings, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1970s, woolens

The Evolution of a Suit Dress, Part 2: Details, Details

How can something which is taking so much time to make still be so much fun? It must be because of all the delightful details to consider, to execute, to alter, and to research. One of the most important details for the jacket of a project like this is the choice of buttons.

Dress Suit - front of pattern envelope

One of the advantages of having my blue windowpane-checked cashmere for a couple of years before sewing with it has been the opportunity to find just the right buttons. When I came across these buttons in an Etsy shop, I knew they would be perfect.

These buttons are 7/8" square.

These buttons are 7/8″ square.

The size is right, as is the shape – which picks up the “square” in the fabric. How I was so lucky to find them in navy blue, I’m not sure. Additionally, and this is very subtle, but the depth of the buttons allows a curvature to each edge, which mimics the curved front edge of the jacket and also the curved cuffs. Of course, when making bound buttonholes, one must have the buttons in hand before beginning the project, since the buttonholes are one of the first details to execute.

ne can never have too many markings basted in place for bound buttonholes!

One can never have too many markings basted in place for bound buttonholes!

Because I need only three buttons for the jacket, the fourth button has been rattling around in my brain. I think  I might possibly be able to use it as a coordinating detail on the sheath dress I have planned for this ensemble. Back to my vintage pattern collection I have gone to look for some suitable inspiration. What I have found is this pattern:

Dress Suit 2 - blouse pattern-2 Although I have yet to work out the logistics, I am thinking that I can turn the collared blouse with the one-button detail (lower right) into a sleeveless sheath dress. The button may not really show (I think) unless I take the jacket off, but I kind of like the subtlety of it all. Once I make a muslin (toile), I will have a better idea of how it will look, so stay tuned! One thing I do know, is that such a collar on the dress will need to lay very flat, with no bulkiness. One way to achieve that will be to back it with the silk charmeuse I will be using for the jacket and dress lining instead of backing it with another layer of wool.

So what am I using for the lining? When I bought the lining for my color-blocked coat last winter, I purchased extra yardage of the silk charmeuse (from Britex). Now I can’t remember what my reasoning was, but once I got it home from San Francisco and I saw how complimentary it was with the navy blue cashmere, I knew I should save it for this project. Fortunately, I have enough of it to line both the jacket and the dress. Not that anyone is ever going to see the lining in the dress, but I’ll know it’s beautiful – and oh, so wonderful to wear!

Dress Suit 2 - lining fabric There are always lots of details in the construction of a rolled collar. At the risk of boring some of you, I’ll quickly go over a few tricks I learned from Susan Khalje last year when I made my color-blocked coat. First, here is a picture (by request from some of you) of the lightly pad-stitched and interfaced jacket front.

Here is an inside look at the interfaced right side of the jacket showing the underside of the buttonholes.

Here, too, is an inside look at the underside of the three bound buttonholes.

The undercollar is also interfaced with black silk organza. It is basted onto the body of the jacket in order to establish the roll line. Once I marked the roll line with pins, I removed it and basted along the roll line in preparation for heavy pad-stitching of that section.

Establishing the roll line of the undercollar.

Establishing the roll line of the undercollar.

Suit dress under collar

The roll line is marked with pins; then I basted along that pin line.

Once I finished the pad-stitching (impossible to see here on the black organza), I then placed it on the dress form, pinned it in place and steamed it. This process reinforces the “memory” of the roll.

A dress form is indispensable for steaming the undercollar.  You can see the basted roll lie in this photo.

A dress form is indispensable for steaming the undercollar. You can see the basted roll line in this photo.

The back of the undercollar after steaming.

The back of the undercollar after steaming.

As I make progress on this jacket, I am reconsidering the amount of top-stitching I want to do on it. The pattern calls for double rows of top-stitching along seam lines, front edges and sleeve edges. I plan on modifying this somewhat.

Dress Suit 2 - topstitching detail-1

This diagram clearly shows the extent of proposed top-stitching. I will definitely not be doing this much!

Top-stitching always makes me nervous. It may be my least favorite part of sewing. I’d rather sew on buttons than top-stitch! Let’s see how well I do with it – in my next post – before I can get back to more fun-stitching.

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Filed under bound buttonholes, Buttons - choosing the right ones, couture construction, Suit dresses, Uncategorized, vintage buttons, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1970s, woolens

The Evolution of a Suit Dress, Part 1

“Suit dress – Used in 1960s to refer to a jacket and dress ensemble that resembled a tailored suit.”   (The Fairchild Dictionary of Fashion, Third edition; Fairchild Publications, Inc., New York, New York, 2010)

Although the inspiration for my current project does not have its beginnings in the 1960s, it is certainly influenced by that era. The actual beginning was about 1974 or ‘75, although I did not know it then. That was when I first laid my eyes upon this Jo Mattli Designer pattern from Vogue:

Dress Suit - front of pattern envelope

I loved the tailored, but feminine, look of the jacket, with its high, notched collar and its sleeves with gracefully curved slits. (I was less enamored with the style of the skirt, but skirts can easily be substituted, of course.)

This diagram of the jacket  back better shows the interesting treatment to the cuff edges of the sleeves.

This diagram of the jacket back better shows the interesting treatment to the cuff edges of the sleeves.  Click on the picture to see a close-up view.

I admired this pattern on a regular basis while it was listed for sale in the Vogue Catalogue at my local fabric store, but in the end I didn’t buy it. That hefty $3.00 purchase price, and not knowing for sure that I would actually end up making this outfit,  kept me from its purchase. Now I am not nearly as practical – or maybe I have learned from experience. One must get these things which speak to them while they can! So when I found this pattern a couple of years ago on eBay, I knew it was time to fulfill a long-delayed dream (at a much higher price than $3.00, I might add!).

Shortly thereafter I found this navy blue, windowpane-check cashmere fabric on one of my trips to Britex Fabrics in San Francisco. I purchased what I was sure would be ample yardage to make a two-piece suit (jacket and skirt, with this Jo Mattli design in mind) and to compensate for matching the plaid. Then I set it aside, knowing that the time to start this project had to be right.

The feel of this wool is best described as like soft butter.

The feel of this wool is best described as like soft butter.

I am so glad I waited. As I have grown in my sewing and dressmaking skills (with so much credit in that arena attributed to what I have learned in classes with Susan Khalje), I came to see this fabric and this suit taking on a slightly different appearance. I knew I wanted to make the Mattli jacket, but more and more I felt that this fabric was too special to mix it up with a blouse, no matter what color or how simple that blouse might be. I began to envision the jacket paired with a sheath dress – in effect, a classic 1960s’ inspired suit dress.

But would I have enough fabric? Britex has always been very accommodating when cutting yardages for me, adding inches to compensate for the layout of plaids and designs, and simply being generous in adding a few inches to my requested amount. (I have found most fine fabric stores to be similarly inclined – Mendel Goldberg, for example, also adheres to this customer-friendly practice. Have you found this generally to be true as well?)   Well, those of you who read my blog know that a little shortage of fabric has never kept me from my intended goal. Of course, I would have enough fabric… And so I do, especially with those few extra inches courtesy of Britex added on!

Fitting the muslin (toile) for the jacket took more thought and planning than usual. Much of this is because the pattern I found on eBay was actually one size smaller than what I usually buy and wear. For some reason I find it easier to size down patterns than size them up, so I’d rather, if necessary, start with a too-large pattern than one too small. Adding length and width to the body of the jacket, fitting the sleeves (which also needed a little more circumference) into those new dimensions, and adjusting the front/neck facing, which is part of the notched collar, was quite a puzzle. It took days!

I transferred my final changes from the muslin to silk organza, and then I was in business. I love a challenge, and it’s a good thing I do! Do you know how nerve-racking it is to make sure all your plaid lines match up vertically and horizontally? Also, I knew I could lay out only the jacket pattern pieces initially. There are two reasons for this: one is that I have not yet determined which sheath dress pattern I want to use. The other is that the plaid on the dress is going to have to match – perfectly – the plaid in the jacket horizontally first, with the vertical match being as close as it can be, taking into account darts and the curves in the body of the dress. So – I have to finish the jacket before I can lay out the dress. That fortuitously gives me some more time to think about the dress, which is still taking shape in my mind!

I chose to use white silk organza rather than black, as it is much easier to see the windowpane lines through the white, and easier on the eyes, too.

I chose to use white silk organza underling rather than black, as it is much easier to see the windowpane lines through the white, and easier on the eyes, too.

This photo better shows my markings on the silk organza underlining.

This photo better shows my markings on the silk organza underlining.

With all the silk organza underlining basted onto the wool, I am ready to sew.

A pile of prepared pieces!

A pile of prepared pieces!

But hold the horses there, Fifty Dresses! First, there are interfacings to be pad-stitched and bound buttonholes to be made.

I am using black silk organza for the interfacing.  This is what I did on my color-blocked coat, under Susan Khalje's tutelage, and I was delighted with the results!

I am using black silk organza for the interfacing. This is what I did on my color-blocked coat, under Susan Khalje’s tutelage, and I was delighted with the results!

It is clear there is no hurrying this jacket, nor should there be. Some dreams just take a little more time.

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Filed under couture construction, Dressmaker suits, Mid-Century style, Suit dresses, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1970s, woolens