“Retro Forward” Burda Style – an “Optical Illusion” Inverted Pleat Dress

Some things are not as they seem in the world.  The sewing craft is a master at perfecting smart and sensible trickery with creative pattern designs but when combined with an illusionary fabric…bam!  Get ready for some seriously fun confusion in the form of wearable art.

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Oversized pleats – a simple staple technique – go on overkill and completely make this Burda Style dress unique but incredible comfy.  I might look nice in it but it is so easy to stay in and so swingy and feminine!  The relaxed fit and flowing silhouette is a nice change from many of the tailored garments I so often make, but this dress still has its own complimentary shape that took some getting used to.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  The printed fashion fabric is a unique polyester sheer.  It is made like a delicate woven, the way it acquires runs easily, and it has a sort of flat “grid-like” design in the fabric (apart from the print) where every other block is sheer and the others are solid.  I do not know what this kind of fabric is and I’ve never again (yet) seen anything like it…one of the reasons I’ve held onto it in my stash for maybe 10 years.  The lining is a solid black poly pongee.

Burda Style Ikat Dress 108A 10-2012NOTIONS:  I had the thread, bias tape, and zipper on hand already.  I did have to go out recently and buy the aluminum chain (more on this later).

PATTERN:  Burda Style’s “Ikat Dress” #108A, from October 2012   

THE INSIDES:  All bias bound.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This dress was more involved than I’d originally thought (with the lining and the fitting) so it took me about 15 to 20 hours to make.  It was done on November 16, 2015.

TOTAL COST:  Both fabrics were in my stash together for maybe a decade so I’m counting them as free, with my only expense being the chain, which was around $5.00.

As for any Burda Style pattern, printing and/or tracing is necessary to have a usable pattern to lay on your desired fabric.  My pattern was traced out using a roll of medical paper from the insert sheet of the magazine issue but you can also buy it, download it, and print it out from Burda Style’s online store.  It’s at this preliminary step that you pick out your proper size and add in your choice of seam allowance width.  A scissor with a magnetic ruler guide helps immensely to quicken along the step to getting a finished pattern prepped.  Sorry to repeat something you might already know, but this is just an “FYI” for those that don’t know.

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The fabric’s print calls to my mind the psychedelic era of the 60’s or 70’s, like what I would imagine some trippy vision of a dance floor would look like to someone on a ‘high’.  It also reminds me of the checkered pattern used in car racing (with red rather than the rust orange in my fabric), like in the modern “Speed Racer” movie where he’s driving so fast the block print swirls and twists before him like he’s burning up the track.  But, in the back of my mind I can’t help but think of it being an   evil harlequin print (like in Cezanne’s painting).  Harlequins (especially the English ones) are masters at trickery and disguise, making what you see and what is really going on two different things.  They also wear a print which has a similar pattern as the one on my dress…even though it’s bold and eye catching it also deceives the visual perception, much like the “dazzle camouflage” used on ships in World War I.  So, with the “dazzle”, “psychedelic”, “harlequin” print (whew) of my fabric, my dress’ pattern further confuses things by having a bodice that looks like one piece at first, to open up leaving one to figure out where the fullness came from…at least this is how I see it without relying on knowing how it was made with tricky inverted pleats and sneaky fabric!

100_6967a-compGoing into this project, I really wasn’t sure if the fabric would be too much for the pattern design or vise-versa.  Actually, I really didn’t like it once it was made – as in “not liking it so much I was ready with both scissors and a new pattern to cut it into a new design” dislike.  I was attached to the fabric after holding onto it for so many years in my stash and it is a unique material, so I really wanted to pair up the perfect project if I was going to use it. However, once my dress was worn and the hem tweaked a bit (more about this later), I was totally won over.  After all, the Burda pattern is four years old now, and I don’t like the print they used.  Also, the more ‘dated’ a pattern becomes (different from vintage), the more I have to think beyond what I see in the cover example to come up with something different.  It’s unnerving for me to take a chance on my more special fabric (like this one) with a bold design idea, but becomes fun and worth it in the end.  Truthfully though, if I was to see this dress “ready-to-wear”, I have a hunch I wouldn’t like it half as much as I do because it was self-made. 100_6977-comp

Back to practical construction info, this dress was pretty much made as-is, with no changes to the original design and cut out according to my traditional sizing as-per Burda Style.  Oddly, it turned out quite generous in fit and way too long in the hem length.  The dress still fits me a bit roomy, but I took in maybe an inch or so on the sides and made a wide 4 or 5 inch hem.  The ¾ sleeves also ended up more of a bracelet length, but once they received a large hem, they look more like a flared end sleeve much like another Burda pattern I made before, the “Comma Dot” pleated placket dress.  I did leave out the pattern’s given neckline facing and instead used a simple line of bias tape.  This switch turned out to be a rather bad idea as the neckline is a wide boat neck, but I made it work.

100_6958a-comp100_6954a-compThe large bottom skirt hem came in handy for me to fix a problem I had with the dress.  You see the lightweight fabric of my dress and the large flowing skirt portion below made me step in the shoes of Marilyn Monroe at her famous “over the air vent” picture in the white sundress where her hem indecently wants to go up to the level of her waist or higher.  Yes, whenever the wind blew I found my hands automatically going down to keep my dress’ skirt in place…nobody wants to wear something so fussy you have to be self-conscious in.  So, I’d remembered hearing of such a thing as a metal chain along a hem to weigh it down, so I went to my local fabric store and bought aluminum (which won’t rust) ¼ inch chain.  At first I tried several different methods of stitching it to the hem, but the chin only felt cold against my skin and wrinkled up the hem.  Luckily, the large hem to the dress provided a perfect “pocket casing” to hold the chain loosely and out of sight off my skin.  I measured the circumference of the hem 100_6979-compbottom and transferred that to the chain, then dropped it into the hem “pocket casing” through a little opening in the stitching.  Once the chain was wound through I used my jewelry pliers to reconnect the chain at the same circumference as the hem, dropped it in, and sewed up the hem hole.  Voila!  I couldn’t ask for a better solution.  Now, the wind my blow, but it will only succeed in filling up my skirt to look like a bell.  Silly wind – can’t make me flash anyone anymore!  I also have an even better swishy swing when I move.  Yay for new tricks of the sewing trade!

I did use an old sewing trick to help, as well.  The markings of the pleats were not showing up on my crazy print, and since the print was slightly sheer I completely lined my dress in a black liner with an equal amount of weight and hand – poly pongee.  Yes, this step of lining my dress took me twice as long, but the finished product makes it worth it in the end.

This dress is definitely part of my “Retro Forward with Burda Style” blog seriesSimplicity 9861 yr 1972 pleated bodice dress with yoked chest, Simplicity 7633 yr 1968 inverted pleated bodice dressAlthough my Burda project is modern, I tried to channel the era of the late 1960’s with it…something between an ‘op-art’ dress and a less-sweet twist on a ‘baby doll’.  It is in the “Flower Child” era (late 60’s and early 70’s) where I see the most sewing pattern designs using inverted pleats in a fashion similar to this post’s Burda dress (see just two of the many examples I found).  However, on a different vein, the way the bodice is smartly constructed with a bodice-shaping dart hidden in the last pleat near the shoulder, and made above the bust on the chest, is exactly the same method as a year 1937 McCall #9170 which I have already sewn from (post here).  Ingenuity never goes out of style!

A small, metal walled, color blocked maze in an art themed park is the background setting to our pictures.  I thought it helped me blend in, but compliment and contrast in theme, idea, and colors with my dress.  Now you see me…now you don’t, just like the pleats in my dress!

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