“Retro Forward” Burda Style: ‘Spicy Stripes’ Knotted Front Dress

Making my new “Spicy Stripes” dress gave me yet another opportunity to have fun with a wild and funky print, plus exercising one of my favorite techniques – stripe/pattern matching. This dress also proves that a little hot dress doesn’t have to be entirely black or skin tight…and can certainly cover you up for winter and keep you warm too!


There is a creative, open, wrap front with long ties to close the front of the dress. Those ties can be closed in different ways to change up the look. The dress also has a tapered skinny skirt bottom, ultra long sleeves, puff sleeve caps, and a slight gather at the center waist back.


FABRIC:  My fabric is a super soft and luxurious half rayon, half “pima” cotton knit bought from my local Hancock Fabrics store. The dress is lined in a very lightweight and thin poly knit in black, leftover from being used as lining for my “Gold Digger’s” style 1940 suit set.knotted_dress_drawing Sept 2013-cropped

NOTIONS:  I had all the thread and bias tape needed on hand already.

PATTERN:  Knotted Dress, #101B, 09/2013, which I downloaded from Burda Style.com

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This dress was incredibly easy and quick once I got past the assembly and traced out the pattern. My dress went from pattern layout and cutting out to done and on me in about 6 hours. I was finished making this on November 21, 2014.

THE INSIDES:  My lining and my dress fabric are both non-raveling, so the edges are left raw, merely zig-zagged together in the proper “lightening stitch”. Only the entire front neckline into the ties was finished off nicely in bias tape and the back in self-fabric bias facing.


TOTAL COST:  My fabric’s total cost was about $14, but I have seen the same fabric (in a different fiber content) on Mood Fabric for a lot more dough.

This is THE dress that proves you can have it all exactly as you personally like it, but only when you make your own clothes, he he! The zig-zag fabric print has a bold fashion edge, the knit plus its lining together feels absolutely wonderful to wear, and the pattern’s shapely design makes me feels amazingly feminine and comfortable with my curves, all the while being nice and warm and cozy in chilly weather!

100_4846-compOddly enough, my Burda Style dress is named after a favorite soap which we made around the same time I made my Burda dress. Yes – every so often, hubby and I like to make our own natural “melt-and-pour” soaps, using only botanical oils and spices or extracts for coloring (our book is “Soapmaking the natural way” by Rebecca Ittner, but a free guide can be found here). The “Spicy Stripes” soap recipe we used called for certain ingredients which made a finished product which could share very similar adjectives to my “Spicy Stripes” knit dress. The soap has a base of glycerin, to make it soothing, and scents of Patchouli, Sandalwood, Lavender, and Ylang-Ylang, for an exotic, fresh, and warming type of spicy scent. Much like my dress, our soap has many uneven alternating layers, some a deep golden red-brown, and others a bright tan, colored with gold mica powder. My dress, however, also has a zig-zag stripe of turquoise, one of my favorite colors. Now, if I wash with the soap in a shower and then wear my knotted front Burda Style dress, my outfit will really deserve the nickname “Spicy Stripes”.


Granted, I have another zig-zag printed knit dress (see this post), but this Burda Style project has a definite Missoni flair! Being printed on, lacking the weave of the knit to make the iconic multi-hued, crisscross, zig-zag print like a true Missoni, this fabric of my dress is a good-looking knock off, close enough for me to be excited and happy. Now for those of you that don’t know (which was me, too, until recently), Missoni was an inventive (at times shocking) pioneer of the fashion world. Missoni was a contemporary was another favorite fashion pioneer of mine, Pucci. Both Pucci and Missoni were vetrans of WWII and rose to fame at similar decades (the 60’s and 70’s) – in my mind these two are awesome! Being part of WWII (and henceforth being captured) actually seemed to be the catalyst for Missoni to find his fashion niche, as well as marrying his talented wife. Together, the Missoni knit and the Missoni design have given our modern times an all-too-often-uncredited amazing mix and culture, intricate design and bold attitude. Today, Missoni’s print has extended to home décor and accessories as well for a whole life-style, if desired, of his signature sedimentary heartbeat layered colors.

Burda patterns (for those readers who don’t know) need some assembly100_4208a-comp and tracing before being ready for layout on your chosen fabric. They can be bought as a downloadable PDF file, to print out, or traced from the leaflet included in a magazine issue. A scissor with a magnetic ruler guide helps immensely to quicken along the step to getting a finished pattern prepped. This is the stage where I pick out my size, tracing out only the size I need to use, including any grading and adding seam allowances.

100_4211compI left out the pockets to keep the skirt slim, otherwise there’s no change to the original design in my dress. The dress was indeed so easy, it took me more time to prep the pattern and cut the pieces out than it did to sew it up. For several reasons, among them being a shortage of yardage and a desire for a design change, I changed up the layout a bit, especially for the sleeves, cutting them on the opposite bias than directed. I was not going to cut out one piece of each on a single layer anyway and try to match them exactly, too. Call me lazy but for what looked like a quickie dress, I was not going to make more work for myself than what’s necessary. I took the most time lining up the two layers of fabric so that cutting on double thickness would yield matching pieces. It generally paid off – except for the back bodice where the alignment of the crazy zig-zag print is slightly wonky. This is because I had to add a center back seam to keep the print going the way I wanted. At the success of the overall dress and the crazy print being so busy, I (out of character) really don’t care about a small boo-boo this time.


At first, I must admit I was highly skeptical the uber-gathered, puff-topped, overly long and very skinny sleeves would be likeable at all compared to the rest of the dress. However, I am amazed at how happy I am once the finished dress was on me. The gathered tops give plenty of extra room to move (besides the knit fabric being stretchable). There’s something about the puff-top sleeves that I think somehow ‘saves’ the overall silhouette of this dress from looking too daring like a fully clinging body-contouring garment – a little extra fabric in the right place can totally change a design. There is the tapered wiggle skirt with its skinny hem, giving barely enough room to go over the hips, and the plunging neckline of the front open wrap. Together these hot tickets are balanced out by the sleeves (so I think).100_4378-comp

One word of warning – I find the easiest way to get it on is to regard this as a step-in dress. Most dresses I put on over my head, but with the skinny hem and completely open front stepping in it is my preferred method.

Just like for my other knit fabric wrap-front dresses (see here and here), I stabilized certain parts of this “Spicy Stripes” dress to keep my garment working well, keeping its intended shape and lasting for years to come.  Firstly, the bottom skinny hem has stable cotton hem tape to keep it from stretching. Secondly the entire hem of the neckline/wrap combo is also finished in the same stable hem tape. The dress’ knit is very soft and stretchy, and if I didn’t stabilize the ties at least, I could see this picture in my mind of them getting longer and skinnier with each wear until I end up with ties so misshapen and ridiculous, so extended they would wrap several times around. Then, how would I replace them? Very exaggerated unrealistic thinking, I know, but I would like to suppose anyone who sews nearly as much as I do must have had some sort of “garment nightmare” amongst their projects, if only in forethought. No, really, the back neckline is still stretchy with self-fabric facing, but the non-stretchy hem tape starts and ends at the shoulder seam. The tough part of the hemming of the front wrap was the small, tight U- corner in where the two ties end and come together at about waistline height. This is U-intersection is also slightly bothersome inside on my skin sometimes, but that depends on how the front is twisted closed.

100_4377-compNow I’ve found three ways of closing this front – regular wrapping to one side then the other over and under (as you see it in the left pic), interlocking around one another (sort of like elbows in square dancing), and knotted. All of these ways of closing tie off in the center back, but I suppose one could even simply close the front by overlapping the ties and pinning them together, letting the ties hang in front. I haven’t had the nerve to actually wear this dress as I last mentioned (I’m afraid the pin or brooch would make a hole in the fabric) but it would look elegant and more daring. Versatility of looks in one single outfit is neat, rather hard to find, and I think helps to keep a garment more timeless, practical, and individual.

I am always intrigued by creative closures that employ the garment itself rather than using traditional methods of attached hardware of notions, such as hook-and-eyes, snaps, or zippers and such. This “Spicy Stripes” Burda dress is not the first one of its kind, but is still is plenty creative. This is why my dress is part of my ongoing blog series “Retro Forward with Burda Style”. The most detailed and ingenious of self-closing wrap front garments can most readily be found in the 1930s, 1940s, and the 1980s, with the top-of-the-line, mind blowing ones coming from the designs of Madeleine Vionnet. She mostly used the bias of fabric and basic geometric shapes to create simple but body complimentary, easy wearing garments likened to the ancient Grecian way of dressing (below,left), primarily in the 1930’s. Who knew simple could look so good – and complicated!

Vionnet 1930s -draped and wrap Grecian gown & dress, De Pew 30s pattern for blouse

The decade of the 1940’s had a number of dressing and dinner, or even evening gowns, in hot little two piece numbers which are connected by some sort of center front tie or lacing. Look at the iconic Charles James’ year 1941 Dressing Gown from the Met Museum (at right) or this gold Lame two piece evening gown for two stunning wrapped two-pieced numbers (actress Bacall also wore a midriff showing gown in the 1944 movie “To Have and Have Not”).

vintage 1980's twisted front polka dot dress&Simplicity 4228 year 1962The next biggest recurrence I see of twist/tie front garments is again in the 1980’s (see the pink one at right). Not that the other decades didn’t have similar garments (like Simplicity 4228, year 1962), but I just don’t see them as being as creative or even totally workable as a closure as the 30’s, 40’s, and 80’s used tie-front garment designs.

100_4365a-compWhat is “modern” sewing after all?! Trends and fads and styles come and go and are always changing. Past designs fuel inspiration for those who come after and styles get a new face and different look for each generation of buyers. It is a credit to everyone for each variant of each creative step ahead, and us fellow home seamstress are the one getting the opportunity to make these garments up!

Do you have a garment with a design that particularly strikes your fancy? Doesn’t it make you feel special to wear it, much less proud that you made it yourself?

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