Ah, yes…summer in the city, when it’s hot out and the perfect time to sew up a new and bold, modern-styled shift dress. Like my “grey T-shirt re-fashion” (the previous post), this dress was definitely another impulse project, fulfilling a dual ‘need’ of the moment – my desire for a new modern easy project, and my new found love for Burda Style patterns.
The year 1966 song by “Lovin’ Spoonful”, “Summer in the City”, popped into my head while taking the pictures for this post, as we were out and about in the modern banking/business/government district of our town’s county. “Dressing so fine and looking so pretty” says a verse from the lyrics to the song “Summer in the City”. I certainly felt like this verse was for me from the way hubby dispensed compliments while I was wearing my simple sewing creation.
FABRIC: The color-blocked quad-tone fabric of my dress is a 100% polyester buff finish satin. It is a “Hancock Fabrics exclusive” print which I bought the summer of last year (2013). My dress is fully lined in a white polyester pongee, also from Hancock, for a soft, comfy, and nicely draped dress both inside and out.
NOTIONS: I needed interfacing and thread, and both are in good supply here. Seam tape was also handy to sew into the shoulder seams to keep them from stretching, as they are on the bias.
PATTERN: Burda Style pattern 108-022014, from pages 50 and 71 of the Spring 2014 US magazine.
TIME TO COMPLETE: This dress is practically THE easiest and fastest dress I have made. Now, granted, I left out the two welt pockets from the front hip line. In total, however, without the pockets, my dress took me only 4 short hours, from start (cutting) to finished and on myself. How great is that…a one evening dress! It was completed on the evening of August 16, 2014
THE INSIDES: Very clean and nicely finished for a quickie project. The side and shoulder seams are covered in bias tape, while the neckline is covered in fabric facing, and the sleeves and bottom have small hems. See the “inside-out” picture at right.
TOTAL COST: When I bought the color-blocked fabric, I got 3 yards cut, and I vaguely remember paying maybe $15, at the most. For my dress, I only used half of those 3 yards, so my total is about $7.50 or less. Cheap, huh?!
As you can see in the line drawing of the dress, “the neckline pleats contour perfectly around the bust, and allow for a departure from standard bust darts,” as the Burda magazine summary states. The neckline pleats do an unexpectedly beautiful job of shaping – just a nice gentle shaping to match the uncomplicated, easy overall dress theme. I didn’t even think of or attempt to do any matching of the fabric’s design for those front neckline pleats, but I absolutely love the way they ended up. The big black square in the center neckline is nice by the way it highlights any necklace or pin I wear, and the other darts flow with the colors of the squares without breaking them up. The neckline facing tuned out well, but it was the hardest facing I’ve done in a long time. The facing pattern pieces aren’t on the bias, and I left out the interfacing, but both together made it harder to turn. It turned out alright, though 🙂
Something to know about this dress is that it has what the magazine calls, “overcut sleeves” that “drape beautifully across the shoulders”. This is very true, but not very obvious what it exactly means until you get into making it yourself. The underarm spot (where the side seam and the sleeves meet) is open to halfway down the chest. Not that it’s a problem, it just means it have to wear a tank top or something underneath. Having such large, deep cut sleeves actually does make them slightly different, but very nice, and extremely comfortable to move around.
This dress is my second Burda style pattern which I have made, but actually the first to come from the magazine issues. The main difference between the patterns in the Burda Style magazine and the patterns downloaded from the website is the ones online are lacking in necessary seam allowances. Both sources (magazine and online) need to be traced out (I use see through medical paper), but internet downloaded patterns need to also be printed out in small sheets and pieced together, before you can have a full pattern to trace. From what I have learned so far, Burda patterns seem to fit pretty closely to right on, maybe just a tad big, when it comes to choosing the sizing. For example, with other patterns from the “Big 4” companies, I usually go by the finished measurements, because of the way they re-make vintage designs and over/under compensate for ‘modern sizing’. However, with Burda, all I have to do is find measurements in their chart, and stick to that for a great fit. It’s so nice to have Burda as a predictable fitting pattern line, with designs so very worth any their extra effort. I’m hooked!
For my shift dress, nevertheless, it did have a generous fit from the hips up to the bust. I ended up sewing in 2 inches tighter on each side, starting from horizontal to the original underarm seam and tapering to the original seam allowance at the hip. That makes for a whopping 8 inches total taken out of the bust for this Burda dress to fit (loosely still) on me. The dress is, I believe cut rather generously, because the magazine said it is meant to flatter women with a fuller upper body, and this drastic fitting is not common for most fitted Burda designs. At least I have not yet again encountered such a generous fit in a Burda pattern, but I now know what to look for. I think I can pinpoint other patterns that might fit similarly.
There is a special trademark touch added to make my new dress even more unique and special than everything already mentioned. Being a “Hancock Fabrics exclusive print”, my fabric had this info printed onto the selvedge. I cut out that selvedge information, folded over the edges around it, and added into the side seam for a quiet but obvious statement. Just like those expensive RTW brand names that have an exterior signature label, I am both advertising for my favorite store and letting those who would understand know that, “hey, I made this!” I did (and promised to do) this ‘selvedge label’ method last time another Hancock print was used for a creation of mine, see blog post here (Leather and Chiffon dress). As you can see in my pictures, I inserted the ‘selvedge label’ at the lower left side seam of the dress.
I understand the color-blocked Hancock Fabrics print used for my dress as being completely modern. However, being color-blocking it necessarily has a heavy nod, if only on a small scale, to the history of art, fashion, and mathematics the century past. ‘Modern’ color-blocking actually was idealized much earlier than many realize. The De Stijl, also known as neoplasticism, was a Dutch artistic movement founded in 1917 in Amsterdam, whose principal members made a rather big name for themselves with their works and idealism. Theo van Doesburg is best known as the founder and leader of De Stijl, while another member, Piet Modrian, began by painting suggestively simplified landscapes, but evolved into his trademark non-representational form – a white ground, upon which was painted a grid of vertical and horizontal black lines and the three primary colors. The American Sol LeWhitt was not a DeStijl member (he promoted minimalism and conceptualism), but his “structures” and wall art was based on similar geometric color blocking principles. As ancient as Euclidean geometry is, most color-blocking designs use it in one form or another to portray the world around us in simplified, uncomplicated terms.
The graphic style of color-blocking focused on a clean, ordered contrast in the 1960’s, while, by the time the 70s hit, it had mellowed into more of a freewheeling pieced print with a geometric flair. To see what I mean, look at the difference between this vintage 1970’s shirt dress’ color blocking (on left, at right) compared to the iconic Yves Saint Laurent color blocked shift dress (far right) of 1965 (year before “Summer in the City” song came out). Saint Laurent’s ’65 color-blocked dress is obviously straight Mondrian, based on his “Composition II in Red, Blue, and Yellow”, year 1930. My dress’ pattern seems to be a mix of styles. What a link between the decades! Perhaps it’s the uncluttered boldness of color blocking which has made its popularity last from 1917 until now, and still going. A niche for simplicity is needed in everyone’s life, I would think, and color-blocking is only one artistic way to express it.
Speaking of keeping things simple, I have categorized my dress as the perfect travel dress, also just right for those “I don’t know what to wear” days. The poly satin is easy care, wrinkle-free, and quick drying. There is no zipper…nothing but softness. Slip on, slip off is the simple dressing of this frock, with endless options to accessorize or go simple. Simple is fun and relieving, but, nevertheless, here are a few of the ways I switched up this dress’ appearance with my accessories.
Ariel Adkins has a great post, found here, on her blog “Artfully Aware”, where she also styles her own “Mod Mondrian” shift dress. Her dress is a vintage silk piece which she altered to fit, but I find it interesting it has the exact same mix of colors as my dress, except for the yellow being the only difference.
Please check my Flickr page, Seam Racer, for more great pictures soon.