Tag Archives: vintage Vogue designer patterns

And There Went March.

March was not home to much sewing at Fifty Dresses this year.  The reasons were manifold, but suffice it to say, my loved ones and I weathered through the storm. Now sweet April is here, adorned in grace and gentleness and goodness, like a balm to our collective souls.  April is filled with promise.  

And I have given April much to make promises about!  I may have not been able to sew throughout most of March, but that did not prevent me from looking at fabric, patterns, buttons, books, and fashionable inspirations.  Despite my best intentions of not succumbing to new fabric purchases, my discipline failed me and I found two silk fabrics at Britex which I decided were too special to pass by.  They are so different from each other, but each one appeals to certain design penchants I have finally admitted are my weakness.  One is for geometric and linear prints:

This is a silk crepe de chine, blouse weight.

The second penchant is for whimsical, scattered florals, in multi-color.  This one is especially appealing to me as it also has polka dots in its motif.  Polka dots are especially difficult for me to resist.  

This is a silk twill, dress or blouse weight. I’m not sure what I will make with this yet. If I thought I would have occasion to wear a hostess skirt, that would be it, but …. it is all still to be determined.

By this point I have an extensive collection of vintage patterns, so it is rare when I find one which fills a gap for me.  But such was the case with this purchase of a Vogue Paris Original by Pierre Balmain.  I had not come across this pattern before, and I believe it was rightly advertised as “rare.”  

I wanted this pattern for the jacket.  The neckline is lovely with its small, rolled collar, and the lines in the jacket appear to be very flattering.  The corded front edges are an interesting design feature which will require the right weight fabric to be finished correctly, I think.  And the four buttons certainly have a prominent position for a jacket not meant to be buttoned!  I will relish finding buttons for this project.  

As with most of my vintage patterns, where I am never quite satisfied until I am able to assign a copyright/production date to them, such was the case with this pattern.   Being a Designer pattern made it easier to narrow my search through my Vogue Pattern Book Magazines.  Also, at this point I have developed a “decade” sense for styles, so I instinctively started with the mid-1960s.  Bingo – the second issue from the mid ‘60s through which I looked featured this pattern.  It was included in an article “Just Arrived – 33 Great Imports” in the October/November 1965 Vogue Pattern Book Magazine.

I like this image of the pattern (on the far right) as I believe it shows the lines of the jacket in a more flattering way than on the pattern envelope.

What made it especially rewarding for me was that my pink Dior coat pattern is included in the same feature.  It must have been a good year.  

The caption for my pink coat pattern, top and center in the same feature of “33 Great Imports”, reads: “DIOR: The ensemble to wear all year – a dirndled dress and a coat that’s shaped high and narrow.”

Pink was on my mind (well, truth be told, pink is always on my mind) during the waning days of March as I zeroed in on making “birthday” dresses for my granddaughters.  (Time and looming dates have a wonderful way of getting me back on the sewing track.)  And yes, they are pink.  However, they are also under wraps – and wrapping paper – to be opened by the birthday girls next week.

Hopefully April will not hurry away, as these months are wont to do.  There are promises to keep and there is more sewing to happen at Fifty Dresses.    


Filed under Mid-Century style, Polka dots, silk, The Conde Nast Publications, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s

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


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?


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

Destiny met – Pierre and me.

Back in November I wrote about finally locating some lovely pink and navy blue silk, which I had squirreled away after never making it up in the pattern I had purchased for it.  Both the fabric and that pattern date from the late 1980s, and I must have known even then that this beautiful silk deserved a better dress design than was available during that era of big shoulders and more big shoulders.

Pink and blue silk which I had never used.

So when I found this pattern in my size on eBay several months ago, it seemed destined to be interpreted in my pink and navy silk.

A Pierre Cardin design, circa 1970, in the Vogue Designer pattern series.

Specifically, I envisioned it made in the sleeveless version in pink, with a contrasting navy blue yoke (and without the side slits).  I had just the right yardage of navy silk to accomplish this feat, and plenty of pink.  Not only that, I knew an event was approaching when I would want to wear a dress of some elegance.  What could be more perfect than that?  The right fabric and pattern matched with incentive gets the project underway in a jiffy.  My affair with Pierre (as in Cardin) was about to begin.

(Interestingly enough, back on February 25, this article ran in The Wall Street Journal, featuring some Spring dress designs from Victoria Beckham.  Does the look of the pink and black dress seem familiar?):

A variation of the Pierre Cardin dress? No – a “new” design!

Well, as is often the case with sewing, nothing is quite as easy as it first appears.  The pattern called for an underlining and a lining.  (Hm-m-m-m, I thought, this could get time-intensive!)  Because I did not want to interfere with the fluidity of the silk fabric, I knew I needed an underlining fabric with minimal weight, but good stability.  I found just the perfect thing from Dharma Trading Co.:  rayon voile.   I ordered what I needed (and then some extra yardage for future projects), and it seemed like about two hours later it arrived.  Actually it was two days later, but considering it was being shipped across the continent from California to Pennsylvania, that’s what I call excellent service!

During those two days, I headed off to Joann Fabrics to find lining fabric, thread, zipper and hem tape.  I was delighted to find Gutermann silk thread in a pink which perfectly matched my fabric. While a pink lining fabric to match was sadly elusive, I went with a navy blue lining fabric instead.

I made the dress lining first, and it was kind of nice to have this part of the dress sewn and set aside until needed.  I did my normal basting of the underlining to the silk as shown here.

Basting on the bodice yoke.

The scallop detail called for stuffing with lambs wool, but I used two layers of drapery weight flannel instead.  This small section of the dress took a long time to complete.

This shows the underlining and the facing for the scallop detail.

Here is what the inside of the scallop part of the dress looked like before I attached the lining.

I put the zipper in by hand, and understitched the neck and arm facings by hand as well, to make a nice, neat finish.  The pattern called for the lining to be sewn in place by hand, so my fingers were certainly doing a lot of stitching!  About this time I was beginning to wonder why I always make things so complicated.  Here is the hand sewn zipper application.

I love the look of hand-sewn zippers!

Here is the front of the dress

. . . and here is the back.

When I purchased the pattern it came complete with a Vogue label, which I was only too happy to apply to the inside neck edge as the finishing touch!

You can also see the hand-sewn-in lining in this photo.

Yes – I completed the dress in time to wear for the intended event!

The good news, other than the fact that this dress is finished?  Two things – one being that I still have enough pink silk to make a skirt or a blouse, not sure which yet.  The other is that I can start another project now that my fling with Pierre is happily over!


Filed under sewing in silk, Uncategorized, underlinings, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1970s, Vogue patterns