Category Archives: Wrap dresses

Classic Diane von Furstenberg

Forty years ago this month – October of 1976 – the first Diane von Furstenberg Vogue patterns were available for purchase. At the same time, Cohama (fabrics) produced Diane von Furstenberg-designed knits specifically for use with those patterns. Both were detailed in the September/October 1976 edition of Vogue Pattern Book Magazine:

One of the Diane von Furstenberg designs I long admired but never purchased when I was sewing for myself in the 1970s was this pattern:

One year at a time - DvF pattern

I never quite believed that it could really be reversible; I just especially liked the front wrapped version. So when I had the opportunity to purchase this pattern a few years ago online, I jumped at it. Then not long after, one of my blog readers contacted me with some vintage Cohama DvF fabric for sale. She so kindly gave me first choice of what she had, and I purchased two lengths from her. The first piece of fabric I made into this dress:

Easy breezy dress

The second piece was this “Birds” design, and I was fortunate enough to have over three yards available to me:

Classic DvF

The selvedge clearly states the DvF connection.

The selvedge clearly states the DvF connection.

How I waited THIS LONG to make this dress, I’ll never know, but now it is reality!

 Classic DvF

Worn with the V and wrap to the back.

Worn with the V and wrap to the front.

Worn with the V and wrap to the front.

DvF-designed Cohama knit fabric is a lovely cotton/rayon blend, very soft and surprisingly easy to sew. I am not a big fan – or any fan at all, really – of sewing with knits, so I appreciate that this fabric is so accommodating. One downside of sewing with knits that I can’t quite get around is the fact that it is almost impossible to make a muslin mock-up to try out the fit and sizing. Perhaps someone knows some trick that I don’t know, but I felt a little like I was flying blind when making adjustments to the pattern which I would need for the proper fit. These included 1) lengthening the bodice by about an inch (which I know needs to be done from other wrap dresses I have made), 2) shortening the sleeves to three-quarter length and adding a little bit of width to them so they could be pushed up comfortably, and 3) adding about an inch and a half to the diameter of the waistline. Even with the forgiving nature of a knit fabric, I am not comfortable making a dress without a proper muslin first – so I was a little bit nervous the whole way through the construction of this dress.

I followed the instructions carefully, and was fascinated to find that all the seams needed to be double-stitched, trimmed and pressed to one side. I discovered the reason for this after the dress was finished – it helps make the dress truly reversible, in some magical way.

A side and waist seam detail.

A side and waist seam detail.  Yes, this dress has pockets – two of them!

I did, however, use my trusty Snug Hug seam binding for the front skirt facings and the hem.

I did, however, use my trusty Snug Hug seam binding for the front skirt facings and the hem.

I needed an iron-on interfacing suitable for use with knits and after some research came up with Heat-n-Bond Fusible tricot (purchased from Fabrics.com.) This is the perfect interfacing for use with knits as it stretches, but also stabilizes. I used it for the neck and front facings per the pattern instructions, and I also reinforced the hems in the sleeves. The pattern called for under-stitching the front and neck facing, and I could not help myself – I did it by hand rather than machine!

Hand finishing is just so much nicer!

Hand finishing is just so much nicer!

I was fortunate enough to receive a label with the pattern! You can see a small strip of the fusible interfacing showing beyond the edge of the facing...

I was fortunate enough to receive a label with the pattern! You can see a small strip of the fusible interfacing showing beyond the edge of the facing…

In the description of this pattern in the Vogue Pattern Book Magazine, it states: “Night & Day, Diane is the one! She wraps up both scenes in one pattern! Her wizard [my emphasis] wrap (that reverses front to back)… [for] day with plunge to front and …[for] night with plunge to back.”

Plunge is right! When I tried on the dress with the wrap to the front, I decided I was going to have to add a modesty panel or a very strong snap to keep the front closed. I opted for the snap, but I’m not entirely happy with the way it looks.

I should have taken a closeup of the bodice!

I should have taken a closeup of the bodice!

There seem to be a few wrinkles across the back.

There seem to be a few wrinkles across the back.

Classic DvF

I so prefer three-quarter length sleeves rather than long sleeves, particularly in a dress like this which will be worn in the warmer months.

When I tried on the dress with the wrap to the back, I loved it, and I felt like it fit me better, especially across the shoulders.

Classic DvF

The back without the snap fastened.

The back without the snap fastened.

Classic DvF

Classic DvF

Now the dilemma: I need the snap for the front V, but I don’t need it for the back V, nor can I reach it by myself in the back to fasten it. But one half of the snap shows when the V is in the back, which obviously will not do!   If I take the snap off, I cannot wear the dress with the front V (which is a little more casual look.) If I leave the snap on, I cannot wear the dress with the back V (a little dressier look.) Maybe I should forgo the snap and make a modesty panel, which can fasten underneath and be removed when I wear the dress “backwards.”   Any thoughts, anyone??

I guess I have the advantage of time on my side to figure this out, as I probably will not, at this point, be wearing this dress until next Spring. Despite this one little gaping issue, I think this dress is beautiful, versatile, comfortable and very feminine!

Hooray for Diane von Furstenberg, vintage Vogue Patterns and vintage Cohama fabrics – some styles never get old!

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Filed under Diane von Furstenberg Vogue patterns, Uncategorized, Vintage fabric, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1970s, Wrap dresses

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

An Easy, Breezy Dress

On a recent windy day, I was thinking about Christina Rossetti’s poem “Who Has Seen the Wind?”

Who has seen the wind?

Neither I nor you;

But when the leaves hang trembling

The wind is passing thro’.

I did not remember it verbatim, coming up with this instead:

Who has seen the wind?

Neither you nor I;

But when the leaves go to and fro

The wind is passing by.

Either version seems to fit my new Diane von Furstenberg wrap dress – it reminds me of a breezy Spring day:

Easy, breezy dress

The pattern itself is shown here in diagram form, for those of you who have never seen, nor sewn with, a DvF Vogue pattern. As you can see, there are minimal pieces.

Easy, breezy dress

I don’t believe you get the sense of how long the ties are from this diagram. Each tie is 50” long, giving the wearer plenty of length to go around her waist, doubling up for part of the front, and still have enough to make a bow or loop with long ends.

I made two minor changes to the pattern from my first version of this dress three years ago: I cut the shoulders in about an inch, which I think is a more pleasing and up-to-date look. I also added ¾” to the bodice in length. For some reason, I find that wrap dresses tend to be either short-waisted or they do not allow for the fact that the ties are going around the waist twice, pulling up the skirt a small amount.   Whatever the reason, the extra ¾” seems to fix the problem. I also decided to try finishing the interior seams with Hug Snug rayon binding – and it worked beautifully. I love the clean, neat finish on these seams, and the soft tape helps to keep the seams from curling in.

Easy, breezy dress It was fun and rewarding to sew with genuine DvF fabric from the mid-1970s. Although I have never been a fan of sewing with knits, this knit was lovely to work on. It sewed like a woven fabric, but cooperated in easing just like a knit should. Very well behaved! I found this quote from Diane von Furstenberg especially apropos: “ Fabrics are key, since they’re like a second skin, and should always be soft to the touch and breatheable. Colors should be beautiful and harmonious, and silhouettes simple, allowing the body to move freely…” (The St. James Fashion Encyclopedia: A Survey of Style from 1945 to the Present, by Richard Martin, Visible Ink Press, Detroit, MI, c1997, page 403)

I might need to put a snap at the top of the under skirt panel to hold it even with the hem...

I might need to put a snap at the top of the under skirt panel to hold it even with the hem…

Easy breezy dress

DSC_0504

Easy breezy dress

I made one last addition to this project: a simple hand-inked label to indicate when this dress was made, sewn onto one of the pocket selvedges. With vintage fabric and made from a vintage pattern, this dress could be mistakenly attributed to having been made in 1976. This label will help to insure that that never happens.

Easy breezy dress

Every Spring deserves one easy dress, but now it is time to move on to something a little less breezy, and a little more complicated. What will that be?

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Filed under Diane von Furstenberg Vogue patterns, Vintage fabric, Wrap dresses

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

The Year of Magical Sewing

“Just around the corner in every woman’s mind – is a lovely dress, a wonderful suit, or entire costume which will make an enchanting new creature of her.”                                                               —  Wilhela Cushman

For those of us who sew, this statement takes on extra meaning, as it is in our power to create that lovely dress, wonderful suit or entire costume. But have you ever thought about the process of sewing – and how magical it is?   Magical in the sense of being “mysteriously skillful, effective, and enchanting” (as Webster defines one meaning of magic).   I love that I can start with a piece of fabric – or a pattern – or an idea spawned by something I have seen and admired – and, using skills I have learned, proceed to actually make my own interpretation. It’s a remarkable process, when you really take the time to think about it. So I am dubbing this year, 2015, for me, as The Year of Magical Sewing, with emphasis on the transformational qualities and joys inherent in fashion sewing.

So what do I have planned for my year of magical sewing? I am beginning the year with several new vintage patterns in my collection, which are inspiring me no end. Add to that some amazing fabric selections, both vintage and new, and I am already certain I’ll never complete every thing I’d like to!  So – here is a general outline for 2015:

It is always easiest for me to segment the year into its seasons as I think about what I’d like to sew. Starting with Winter, I have two wool projects which will take me into March, I am sure: One is my fringed “blanket” dress, currently underway in my Sewing Room. After that I will be sewing with a piece of navy blue cashmere, from which I hope to squeak out a dress and jacket. (Valentine’s Day will find me interrupting my wool projects to make a sweet treat or two for granddaughter Aida.)

With any luck, I'll soon be wearing my blanket dress.

With any luck, I’ll soon be wearing my blanket dress.

Spring is especially enticing to consider. Somehow I have become obsessed with dress and coat ensembles. Here are two patterns which would make up into “Spring” coats and coordinating dresses. I definitely will be using vintage linen for one of these two-part looks.

I love the knee length coat, although I may substitute another pattern for the coordinating dress.

I love the knee length coat, although I may substitute another pattern for the coordinating dress.

Or I may decide to use this Madame Gres design fopr a coat and dress.  The coat has very unusual darts along the side, which you may be able to see here.

Or I may decide to use this Madame Gres design for a coat and dress. The coat has very unusual darts along the side, which you may be able to see here.

Another Diane von Furstenberg wrap dress is also on my agenda for late Spring/early Summer. Thanks to one of my readers, I was able to purchase some authentic Cohama DvF fabric, so I am excited to contemplate the beginning of this dress.

Circa 1976, this fabric is still soft and lovely.

Circa 1976, this fabric is still soft and lovely.

Summer will find us traveling quite a bit, so I am trying to be realistic about the time I’ll have to sew. If I can get one “fancy/formal” dress made, I’ll consider it a success. I might be using this By Hand London “Flora” pattern with this fabric, unless, of course, I change my mind.

Aspects of this pattern remind me of classic Balenciaga.  I'll have to make the skirt longer, however...

Aspects of this pattern remind me of classic Balenciaga. I’ll have to make the skirt longer, however…

I watched this fabric on the website of Britex Fabrics for months, and finally decided I had to have it.  It is silk charmeuse, very soft with the abstract design woven in.

I watched this fabric on the website of Britex Fabrics for months, and finally decided I had to have it. It is silk charmeuse, very soft, with the abstract design woven in.

Fall will once again find me thinking coats and dresses. One of these two patterns will probably get the nod for a Fall/Winter ensemble:

I love both the coat and the dress (with two variations) featured in this pattern.

I love both the coat and the dress (with two variations) featured in this pattern.

This Jacques Heim design has very unusual seaming in the skirt.  And the short jacket looks like it would be very flattering.  However, this pattern needs just the perfect fabric to showcase the design.

This Jacques Heim design has very clever seaming in the skirt. And the short jacket looks like it would be very flattering. However, this pattern needs just the perfect fabric to showcase the design.

And I am still looking for the perfect fabric with which to make the coordinating coat for this dress which I completed last Fall:

The Year of Magical Sewing

And here is the Mattli pattern showing the coat...

And here is the Mattli pattern showing the coat.

And then there is that baby quilt I want to make for “number 2” grandchild…   And more little dresses to make…

Perhaps the real magic of the year will be in completing even half of all I’d like to sew?  Here’s hoping that what is just around the corner for you, my readers, in 2015, holds its own magic and enchantment!

 

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Filed under Coats, Love of sewing, Uncategorized, Vintage fabric, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s, Wrap dresses

Panic and Patterns

Being away, as “on vacation” (or “on holiday” as many express it), can take its toll on sewing projects. If I have to leave a project in mid-stream, it seems to take even longer to get back to it and pick up where I left off. A recent trip to the western state of Wyoming necessitated that I abandon my current “Fall” dress at precisely the time of year when I need to complete it! And now I’ve run into some complications with it.

I guess you could say that panic has set in. Here is what the dress bodice looks like on my dress form:

Panic and patterns

I am using vintage Vogue pattern 2718 for this dress.

The fit seems okay. The neckline will need a little adjustment, but nothing out of the ordinary. The sleeves look good, and I am pleased with the piping so far. So what is the problem? When I try the bodice on, it looks awful. It pulls across the bust, it doesn’t want to move with me at all, and the front seems too short-waisted even though it measures perfectly for me when on the form. Worse still, this fabric is too dear (as in expensive) to put it aside or to think about abandoning this dress.

I think I know what is wrong, and it will take a great deal of effort to try to correct it – and hopefully it will be correctable! I insisted on using an underlining on this stretch silk fabric. I thought I could accommodate the stretch by cutting the underlining on the bias. Guess what? It doesn’t work. The bias pulls from underneath, restricting the stretch of the silk. What this means is that I am going to have to remove the underlining. It is not going to be fun to remove black underlining from black fabric, sewn together with black thread, is it?

I have consoled myself with the thought that I can salvage this project by making a skirt instead of a dress, which may be what I end up doing. Needless to say, I am fighting my discouragement, and trying to stay focused so I can finish this and move on to something more fun.

While traveling is not conducive to sewing, it doesn’t put a damper on looking at more patterns and fabrics online! Sometimes I go weeks without finding a pattern and then I’ll find several all bunched together in the space of a few days. You might be guessing that such was the case during the last few weeks. So while I am struggling with vintage Vogue 2718 right now, I look at my new acquisitions to give me encouragement for the future. Here are some of my “new” finds:

I was delighted to find this DvF pattern in my size, at a reasonable cost!  This one should see some fabric next Spring or Summer.

I was delighted to find this DvF pattern in my size, at a reasonable cost! This one should see some fabric next Spring or Summer.

DSC_0303

This one was too good to pass up, although I don’t have any plans for it right now. This looks like a dress, but it is really a skirt and top, paired with the jacket.

DSC_0304

What can I say? I love coats.

DSC_0305

I have been on the search for this pattern for a long time. I hope I’ll have some reason to make this dress sometime soon…

DSC_0306

The sleeves on the blue version of this blouse are so pretty!

In addition to these new patterns, I just ordered two Marfy patterns, which should either add to my current sewing anxiety or help alleviate it. I hope it is the latter!

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Filed under 1980's dress patterns, Blouse patterns from the 1950's, Coats, Cocktail dresses, piping, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1950s, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1970s, Wrap dresses

“P” is for Pearl — and — Perseverance

Among timeless fashion statements, pearls and wrap dresses both make my top-ten list.  The opportunity to combine the two was just too good to pass by, especially after being inspired by a silk charmeuse perfectly suited for just such a pairing.

Pearls and ribbons and clusters!

Pearls and ribbons and clusters, fabric purchased from Mendel Goldberg Fabrics in NYC.

As luck would have it, shortly after I purchased the silk for this dress, an entire article in the Style & Fashion section of The Weekend Wall Street Journal of August 24 – 25 (2013) was devoted to “the old-fashioned allure of pearls…”  It seems that pearls are “showing up on everything from shoes to wallpaper to chairs”  – and to fabric, as evidenced by my Italian silk charmeuse.  I am just “old-fashioned” enough to think that pearls are never not in style, but I must admit that even I was smitten with the unusual and modern approach of this fabric design.

Pearls required - WSJ article

Pearls are showing up everywhere, it seems.

So – how would this modern fabric look, made up in a mid-1970s’ wrap dress pattern?   I thought it would work quite well. But getting there turned out to be challenge.  Although I was lacking the classic Diane von Furstenberg wrap dress pattern that I envisioned for this dress (blogged about here), I thought I could piece together a 1976 Simplicity version and a new Vogue wrap dress pattern to achieve my goal.

This is the dress I wanted to recreate...

This is the dress I wanted to recreate…

The Simplicity "version" of the Diane von Furstenberg wrap dress.

The Simplicity “version” of the Diane von Furstenberg wrap dress.

Vogue 8784 diagrams

Vogue 8784 diagrams

Here’s what I did:

1) I decided to use the princess-seamed bodice back from the new Vogue pattern.

2) I re-cut the collar and the cuffs from the Simplicity pattern so that the points on them would not so extreme.

3) Because the ties on the Simplicity pattern were not attached to the dress (the tie was just like a very long separate sash) I used the ties from this DvF pattern, and attached them to the side seams.

Pearls required - DvF pattern

4) The missing sleeve pattern piece in the Simplicity pattern meant that I had to use the sleeve from the new Vogue pattern and basically redraft it, with an elbow dart, and with cuffs.  I also used Simon Henry’s book The Little Black Dress: How to make the perfect one for you as a reference.

Pearls required - LBD book

This is the wrap LBD dress featured in the book.

5) I ended up making two complete muslins and re-stitching one of those muslins, before I had a workable pattern.  All of this seemed to take forever!

When I finally cut out the black silk organza underlining, I was ready for a celebration, but of course, that would have been premature.  Although the design in the fashion fabric really could not be “matched”, I still had to respect the placement of the “clusters” as they would relate to the bodice.  (I did not want “clusters” at the apex of the bust darts, for example.)   And I felt like the “clusters” should be placed at equal distances from each other over the expanse of the dress, if possible.  After determining all this and  cutting out the fashion fabric, I finally got to sewing, which included lots of basting, catch-stitching all the seams to the underlining, understitching the collar by hand (which worked beautifully, for which I was very grateful!), setting in the sleeves, making the lining, etc., etc.

Here is the final placement of the fabric design on the front of the bodice . . .

Here is the final placement of the fabric design on the front of the bodice . . .

P is for pearl

. . . and here is the bodice back.

Understitching the collar created a slight under-curve which helps the collar lay flat.

Understitching the collar created a slight under-curve which helps the collar lay flat.

This boring view just shows the lining that was so tedious to attach!

This boring view just shows the lining that was so tedious to attach!

I made the mistake of making the cuffs before a final fitting of the sleeves. (I thought I was being smart and getting “prep” work done, but I just made more work for myself).  I ended up shortening the sleeves and enlargening the openings so that I would be able to push them up on my arms if I wanted to.  The cuffs I had made were not long enough to accommodate these adjustments, so back I went to cut and make new cuffs.  Fortunately I had just enough fabric to squeeze these out!

For buttons for the cuffs, I went to my button box and came up with this card:

The original price of these buttons was 10 cents.  I picked them up for 50 cents at some point.  It almost seemed a shame to cut them off of the card!

The original price of these buttons was 10 cents. I picked them up for 50 cents at some point. It almost seemed a shame to cut them off of the card!

Because I had reduced the points on the cuffs, I needed “not-too-big” buttons and these proved to be perfect, I thought, and in keeping with the “pearl” theme.

Here is one of the cuffs with buttons attached.

Here is one of the cuffs with buttons attached.

Working on the black fashion and lining fabrics was tedious.  And it seemed the more I worked on this dress, the more there was to do on it!  Kind of like eating a big bowl of pasta – the work seemed to multiply before my eyes.  Fast, easy, and jiffy this was not!  It’s times like this that being of a stubborn nature serves me well.  I persevered and got it done!  And even better, I am really happy with the results.

I will replace this photo with one of me in the dress as soon as I can!

Here is the dress on my new dress form . . .

. . . and here it is on ME!

. . . and here it is on ME!

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P is for pearl

Now – two more “P” words.  I have “P”romised myself that my next “P”roject will be simple.  Maybe a blouse – or even a blanket?

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Filed under Buttons - choosing the right ones, couture construction, Little Black Dress, sewing in silk, Uncategorized, vintage buttons, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1970s, Wrap dresses