The “Ivory Explorer” Dress

A trip to ancient Egypt with or without James Bond calls for the right dress, wouldn’t you say?  Even if I’m only dreaming, and even if I never really leave town, my newly made “Bond Girl” dress is still a wonderfully chic way to channel the “safari” fashion of the late 60’s and early 70’s.  Following the lines of my inspiration – Barbara Bach from the 1977 film “The Spy Who Loved Me” – my dress pattern was adapted to be more ‘explorer’ oriented while still keeping a pocket-free, clean silhouette to be suited for a warm weather environments other than the land of the Sahara.

The perfect vintage accessories were on hand to make my outfit so very “Bond Girl” matching.  The imitation alligator leather briefcase is vintage from my mom, circa late 60’s early to mid-70’s when she was beginning her professional career.  I love how it compliments my outfit in so many ways, especially in era appropriateness, besides being similar to what was used in the movie.  It really was my purse for the evening, not just a prop, and the nicely divided pockets inside made it very handy!  The earrings and necklace are also 60s or 70s era, from my Grandmother.  My shoes are my longtime standby comfortable wedge heels, Sam & Libby brand, although much more restrained than Barbara Bach’s high heeled Mary Janes.  Not everything is carbon copy to the movie – my buttons are a bit darker and I did wear my hair in an ultra-high, fluffy ponytail just like it was drawn on the pattern envelope cover!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  100% linen – soft, slubbed, off-white, and near handkerchief weight – for the main body of the dress and 100% cotton sateen in a rich ivory color for the belt, collar, and front buttoning placket.

PATTERN:  McCall’s #9585, year 1968

NOTIONS:  Nothing but thread, some interfacing remnants, and a card of vintage wooden buttons from my Grandmother’s stash were all that I needed, and were all on hand.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This was a two evening dress project – very fast and easy, even with my changes!  I spent maybe 5 or 6 hours in total, divided between two evenings.  It was finished literally as I was getting ready to go out wearing it – October 6, 2017.

THE INSIDES:  So nice!  French seams with the rest covered by the collar and button placket.

TOTAL COST:  My dress’ two fabrics were bought at JoAnn’s a few months back for under $30 (as best I remember).  However, I did not use all of each, I have 2/3 yard of linen left and 1/3 of sateen, both of which will go to other projects.  Thus my total price for this dress should be about $20 or less.  Since when can a woman have a linen dress of this quality and design for such a price?!  Awesome stuff happens when you can sew…

Afar from the dusty regions of the world, the safari style mostly finds its place in the grimy urban jungle.  Hollywood’s choice of subject matter of the times helped popularize this style idealism – Born Free of 1966, The Extraordinary Seaman of 1969, Mississippi Mermaid of 1969, and Hatari of 1962 to name a few examples.  Catherine Deneuve and Faye Dunaway became the poster girls for the style.  The real credit, however, to the fashion icon Yves Saint Laurent for his expedition line of clothing.  It was supposed to bring a powerful sort casual class, that’s comfortable with an air of Amazonian confidence and capability to women.  1967 and ‘68, the year of the McCall’s pattern I used, were when his safari designs were in the limelight, with several famous pictures of both him and two models wearing his creations at the doors to his groundbreaking Rive Gauche prêt-à-porter (ready-to-wear) boutiques (one picture here).  It was his “Saharienne,” or Safari jacket, that was part of his first wave of RTW in September 1967.  However, this branch of culturally influenced clothes branched out into laced up dresses, pocket-laden suits, one-piece rompers, and now this Safari look has many forms and is in perennial popularity.  Visit my “Safari” Pinterest board for more inspiration!

My expedition dress has a gentle nod to the Saint Laurent style with its simpler style.  It seems most safari styles are in hue of tan or khaki, and have a plethora of patch, pleated pockets and fine details.  My own Bond girl dress has details but with more of a flawless sophistication I appreciate, no doubt because I associate myself from the woman who wore it in the movie.  Barbara Bach and I both have brown hair and a darker skin tone, and this is not my first dress from this movie, so forgive me!  Egypt does have sand and heat like Africa, but a slight twist on the style – bringing it to a glowing ivory – seems to put her above the elements (as if Bond girls are angels!), in a deceptive play with perception, rather than an earthy tan like true safari styles.  Ancient Egyptians would have frequently worn clothes in undyed linen, anyway, especially for sacred functions.  For me, the ivory brings it out of the casual side more easily, depending on how I style it.  Not that this dress isn’t comfy as if it were a casual dress, because the relatively wrinkle-free linen and the fit makes this effortless to wear.  I guess you can tell I just really think the costumes are first rate in “The Spy Who Loved Me”.  As this project is my second time around, I also think I definitely have another style icon in Barbara Bach.

For being labeled as a “Quickie” pattern, this dress pattern is top-notch!  Most other “Jiffy” and “Simple” and “Quickie” pattern I have tried have all been alright, but either they were so simple they did not need fitting or were just a plain mess to get tailored to myself…until now!  It totally reminds me of what I normally find with the vintage Vogue patterns and 1940s era McCall’s.  There is nice curving along the side seams and perfectly proportioned darts.  This pattern is another one of those that pretty much fit me directly out of the envelope, too.  I have a handful of these patterns that seem meant for my body, and it is like a seamstress’ security blanket to know you can rely on them to be easy to make and like on yourself.  Once you find a pattern like this, it’s a form of gold!

It really took some math to draft my own placket here because this is the widest one I’ve sewn yet.  It wasn’t really hard through, but I did have to remember to cut the dress front on the fold to eliminate the center seam.  Once the placket was in, then I figured out how much longer to draft the collar so I would reach parallel with the edges of the button placket.  I had the temptation to go all out and attempt to make an all-in-one collar and placket piece, but no…a “Quickie” pattern doesn’t deserve to have something added to it which would blow my brain up trying to figure it.

Both collar and placket strips were stabilized with sturdy interfacing so that they would standout somewhat from the rest of the dress and give it something to body, dimension, and interest.  (Something closer to this Yves Saint Laurent dress from Winter 1967.)  Granted the fact that the collar and placket was in a richly creamy colored sateen with a subtle shine already provided some contrast without clashing with the rest of the linen dress.  With the stiffness of the placket, I was luckily able to get by with only 5 buttons leaving some major spacing in between.  The way the collar opens up and stands on its own away from my face…I’m so in love.  I do also adore the way the changes I added bring out the basic but well-tailored fit of the pattern without any add-on details to detract from it.  As much as I cannot do without pockets, this dress needed to go without.

Small details unnoticed at first glance really do make all the difference here.  Lovely French darts were used for the bust and waist shaping while shoulder darts (which actually end at the top of the shoulder blade) offer superior freedom of movement.  For some reason I even found the sleeves and armholes to be much more generous and comfortable than most other 60’s and 70’s patterns I’ve used.  I even cut to the pattern’s original hem length too, and it ends at a nicely demure mid-knee length which comes up to a more risqué mid-thigh when I sit – yay for a sneaky hot little number!  The skirt rides up only because of the slight pencil skirt shaping from the hips down.  This is not an A-line dress but more of a straight cut with subtle curving.  My 1967 plastron jumper had the same kind of skirt, too.  I often assume that most 60’s dresses are A-line so I wanted to point out that this one is a good kind of different from the era’s ‘norm’.  I cannot wait to make another version of this dress for the winter in a long sleeve, perhaps slightly shorter version.

Going back to my title, it is regrettable that the thing which my Egyptian explorer dress shares in common with any kind of Yves Saint Laurent African safari dress is ivory.  This time I’m not just talking about the color of my dress.  Sadly, modern Egypt harbors one of Africa’s largest domestic animal ivory markets.  Hippos are (surprising to many) very lethal and kill about 3,000 every year and elephants can be equally dangerous – quite a different story from the cute nursery drawings of them we grow up seeing.  Many do get killed because of the encroaching of civilization upon the animals’ territory. With bone and man-made imitation being attractive and suitable substitutes, using animal ivory for inlays and carved accessories and artwork at the cost of endangering nature’s most fascinating creatures is even more irresponsible.  Yet, this practice is still going on.  In Africa and elsewhere, it is the elephant and the boar that are targeted.  In Egypt, it is the hippopotamus’ ivory, together with imported elephant tusks which are popular.  The Egyptian government has apparently been working to reduce the trade, but the illegal black market still works to both supply and demand.  Sorry to include a small soap box preaching here, but facts are facts and sadly this doesn’t seem to be recognized as a world problem.

“Bond girl” or ivory trade subjects aside, I now have a great new dress to explore my own urban jungle and take on the errands and duties of my city living in a new vintage style.  Maybe that’s the deeply set attraction of Safari styles – we all have some degree of desire for an expeditionary adventure of some sort which teaches us new things and enlivens the spirit.  Even if it’s just an article of clothing or a book or a piece of art, a tactile thing can still give a small taste of that.  Are you an “explorer” soul – in your own city or abroad?

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Totally Reversible 1967 Suit Dress Set

How does one maximize a garment’s wearing options with style?  By not deciding!  Before you tell me I’m crazy, listen.  You see, when I was planning to sew a 1967 suit set, and I had set my heart on two fabrics for it, I thought why not just go all out and make it reversible?  I had equal amounts of a lovely lavender linen and a fleur-dis-lis printed cotton, both of which I saw as meant for one another.  I wasn’t willing to hide one or the other to use as a lining, and using them separately just wouldn’t have the same effect.  Making a reversible suit set sure solved the problem of which fabric to choose, and it also gave me a darn good challenge, to boot…especially since my pattern was lacking instructions!  I had to count on my sewing smarts to get me through!

Yes, I know how to make things hard for myself, but it gives me a goal to accomplish which can make me feel proud to complete successfully.  There are so many ways of wearing a reversible suit dress set, so each picture practically has a different combination and different details to show.  I love how this set ‘suits’ my body, yet I mostly enjoy the ability to pop into a bathroom and come out looking different as if I’ve changed what I’m wearing when I really haven’t!  He, he.  It’s never dull around me apparently 😉THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  The one fabric is 100% linen, in an open woven blend of the lavender, lilac, grey, and purple.  The other fabric is a 100% cotton in lavender, with a purple geometric Fleur-dis-lis print which has a slight metallic silver sheen printed over it.

PATTERN:  Simplicity #6957, year 1967 junior’s pattern

NOTIONS:  Believe it or not, everything I needed for this project was already on hand  – thread, interfacing, a zipper, as well a vintage buttons from the stash of hubby’s Grandmother

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The set was finished on May 24, 2015, after maybe 25 to 30 hours spent.

TOTAL COST:  Everything for making this project was stuff languishing in my different stashes for many, many years, so I’m counting this project as free!

I will admit that I had ‘support’ for my idea from a major fashion figurehead – Chanel – and an outfit of hers with a dramatic story behind it.  I’m talking about a suit set that she designed for her Patrimoine collection which was showcased in Marie Claire magazine No. 181 in September 1967.  It looks like a dress in a violet tweed with a reversible, or at least contrast lined, jacket and hiding helmet-style hat.  This Marie Claire magazine article was part of a daring and little known contest they hosted between Andre Courrèges and Chanel.  Thus, the violet tweed outfit that was my ‘splashboard’ was the best of what made Chanel, well…Chanel, still presenting appealing yet classic designs in the crazy decade of the 60’s and setting her apart from her modern peer Courrèges.  A woman’s suit, traditionally a man’s garment decades back when she was beginning her career, is Chanel’s specialty, along with that elegant “distinction” which her designs have.  The youthful, bright designs of Courrèges (such as the go-go boot or mini skirt), by the very way they fit, are cut, and worn, bring the body close to one’s sensibilities and contrast in bold terms with Chanel.  (More info can be found in the book “The Language of Fashion” by Roland Barthes, Chapter 11, pages 99 to 103, you can read some of it here.)  More or less, Simplicity was offering a very high class design here.For some reason, I feel that my reversible suit dress set from 1967 is an unorthodox mix of both Chanel’s dignified tweed design (with her soft feminine colors to boot) and the youthful, arm baring, modern aura of a Courrèges creation (my cotton print does have shiny silver, his preferred color besides white, and it is a junior’s pattern).  We were at a contemporary art museum for these pictures after all, yet many of my poses are dignified for even more contrast.  Hopefully, in my 1967 set, the contest between Chanel and Courrèges from years back is now a tie.

To the actual sewing, I more or less made the entire dress and jacket in double, with all edges inside itself.  There was so much turning of edges, pinning, top-stitching involved!  I eliminated all facings (of course) and instead ironed on interfacing inside where facings would have been.  Luckily this dress did not need any adjusting to fit me other than the changes I made to the pattern already at the cutting out stage!

The two biggest challenges to making this suit set reversible was the shoulder pleats to the dress and the button closing to the jacket.  The dress’ shoulder pleats are more akin to an overlapping fold, or technically a knife pleat, which runs right along the outer sleeve edge.  To make this work on a reversible dress, I did these folds last, and stitched them down individually.  There are four in total – one on each shoulder and one on each fabric side – and make things only slightly bulky (nothing a good ironing can’t fix), but at least the original design lines are kept intact.For the jacket buttoning, I went with a method which was popular in the 1930’s when delicate closures could be smashed through rough treatment from roller style wash machines – removable buttons!  Both sides of the jacket opening edge have button holes.  This way my buttons can be placed in the correct side, whichever that may be, for the right and the left change up when my jacket is reversed!  Vintage 1930’s buttons had a metal look which used a ring or a pin to keep them in place in the buttonhole openings (see pics of that in detail on the “Vintage Gal” blog), but I didn’t have that advantage here.

Again, my indecision saved the day for my outfit!  As I couldn’t choose between some large satin finish pale pink buttons or fancy deep purple shell ones, I used them both, connecting them underneath with a ribbon tie.  Making the buttons reversible actually worked out very well, because the second button behind whichever side I use acts like a backing to keep them in place in the button hole opening.  Next time you make something and want to use some precious or fragile buttons, or even if you want something reversible, remember to make both closing sides with button holes and make your buttons removable in one way or another!  A little ingenuity can go a long way to solving problems.

Even though my fabrics are not busy, I’m disappointed at how they hide the graceful style lines to this set.  You can’t really see, but the dress has these shaping side bust panels that arch down from the back neckline darts, swoop under the bust to head into and around the back just above the waistline.  So lovely!  This way there are no darts or other means of shaping besides a well-tailored panel which brings in a curve over the chest and high waist, unlike many other fashions for juniors from the same time (mostly non-body conscious A-line dresses and loose “baby doll” styles).  With such a shaped dress, a short and boxy jacket (which has French darts and an arched side seam hem) actually works much better than I’ve ever come across before.  I’ve always tended to dislike boxy jackets – I find them hard to pair with most of what I wear or have in closet, and never before found a way to like one so much on my body.  I love it when utilizing both my sewing and vintage styles opens up a way for me to like something on myself I’ve always avoided before.  It is hard for me not to like anything in any shade of purple, anyway!Oh yes, I can’t forget to talk about the back zipper!  I’ll confess I made things hard on myself here by using a “normal” modern zipper.  I know they make reversible zippers, but buying one 22 inch length would get pricey and finding one that match would be more challenging, so I merely used one that was on hand.  For the first time I switched to the lavender Fleur-dis-lis printed side out, it originally was quite tricky to zip closed the dress on myself grabbing the pull from the inside…a bit stressful, to tell the truth.  To make things easier, I later used my jewelry making skills to attach a double jump ring to the small zipper pull so I could add a decorative metal Fleur-dis-lis charm.  This charm makes the zipper pull easier to find and grab so I can close my dress no matter which side I wear without freaking out, stuck in a bathroom changing, with the back of my dress open (it has happened, can’t you tell).  Besides, the charm hanging at the back of my neck is quite, fun, and quirky.  Also, in my opinion, and there is no such a thing as Fleur-dis-lis overload.

There was a storm blowing in when we took these pictures, and as my hairstyle did not hold against the humidity, I resorted to using a vintage scarf which actually worked out quite well.  I think it conveys modernity, youth, and movement (Courrèges influence), as well as keeping my outfit from being too stiffly dressy, although I am wearing pearls…so very classic Chanel!  My shoes and gloves are vintage pieces, too.  The gloves have a scalloped edge, much like my suit jacket, and I think my shoes are very similar to the ones drawn on the middle model of my dress’ pattern cover!

I really enjoy reversible garments – I love how they offer optimal wearing options, and prompt me to nicely cover up all edges for a nice finish!  Not too often do I come across a garment with more than one wearing option – changing up one’s look with a single garment isn’t an option that I see in ready-to-wear, unless it’s travel-themed clothes.  I now have many pairing options for the effort of sewing one relatively simple suit set.  I feel like I’ve maximized some of my time and the space in my closet without compromising style.  Yet, reversible clothes doesn’t have to mean simple design…I’ve just proved that with my crazy sewing experiment.What do you think of reversible clothes?  Have you worn anything reversible, or made anything reversible?  Do you prefer the style of Chanel or of Courrèges for the 60’s?

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Wrap Around the Border Print Dress

I suppose I’ve been watching Wheel of Fortune, the game show of hidden words and phrases, to come up with this post title!  It’s a “Before and After” line.  No really, border prints are my newest fascination this year.  When I’ve combined such a fabric with a wrap-on vintage dress pattern, my post title somewhat sums up the awesome result.

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Of all the dresses I have made yet this year, this is the dress that is hands down my favorite – that’s saying a lot!  It doesn’t sit in the closet for very long and gets worn almost every other week.  It is the perfect balance for me between fun yet classy, professional yet casual, cheery yet uniquely subtle, and totally easy to dress in yet body complimentary.  This dress is made with my ultimate favorite fabric –rayon challis – and although it is a wrap dress with no zipper, sewing it was still a very good challenge (which I love).  It fits me so well and is comfy as all get out.  I think that about covers all I could possibly want out of a dress!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a 100% rayon challis, with a small scrap of cotton for the neckline facing

Simplicity 5034, ca. 1963, the wrap-around dress, comboPATTERN:  Simplicity 5034, year 1963

NOTIONS:  Nothing but thread and a little interfacing were needed, which I had on hand

TIME TO COMPLETE:  My dress was finished on March 21, 2017, after about 7 hours of time spent on it.

THE INSIDES:  I began by making all seams bias bound, but then I saw a few holes in the rayon so I lost heart to make extra effort on the insides and left the skirt seams raw and unfinished.

TOTAL COST:  This border print rayon was bought as everything was on clear-out when Hancock Fabrics was going out of business.  It was an awesome $2 a yard for about 3 yards – a total of about $6!

The fabric is mostly red, white, and navy blue making this my un-official Independence day dress for the “Colors of the Flag Challenge”, also known as the “4th of July Proud Dress Project”.  That’s why I paired my red coral bead necklace (made by me, as well) with my comfy and lovely leather B. Makowsky red patent, 60’s style pointed flats.  However, there are also small tinges of turquoise and golden yellow.  Also, when you look at it, the print is really three leaved clovers, like the wild and neglected greens which grow in my country’s roadsides, cow-fields, and backyards (in our case).  Now a plant that gets eaten, stomped on, and neglected has its time to look beautiful.

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The border print was only printed along one selvedge, and it is just about the widest I have seen (about 20 inches deep).  So out of all the inspiration images on my Pinterest board for border prints, I went with a basic layout of keeping the border along the hem and the sleeves.  I also, went for a longer midi length to this dress just so I could use as much of the full border print as possible.

Now, for being from 1963 this doesn’t look like the conventional 60’s dress does it?!  This is a tricky deceiver, again proving to me that the more I look at the early to mid-60’s, the stereotypical hippie style that this era is most known for was certainly not at all around until after the halfway point in the decade.  Before 1966, the overall era is still strongly influenced by the 50’s.

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This wrap-on dress pattern is also something I have had my eye on for the past two years before now.  Finally, I can actually have a wearable garment from my long awaited pattern!  It was one of those patterns I know I’m intending on buying, only it carries a price tag I’m not willing to accept.  So then I wait and selectively stalk the internet every so often just to find one (finally) find at a steal of a price.  I have a number of patterns that I’m doing this same ‘waiting game’ for, and I usually do end up finding an awesome deal eventually.

The actual sewing was quite easy, but the skirt waist pleats more than made up for that!  More on that in a minute, because before that the bodice, it’s facing and sleeves, then the full skirt piece with its pockets had to be sewn together.  The ‘side seams’ are not really on the side; they are off each side of the center front.  A few inches next to those seams, the pockets get set in like somewhat like a cross between a welt and a button placket.  With the skirt piece prepped, I now had one gi-normous rectangle to work with taking up my entire kitchen floor.

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Now, I have seen a few versions made from this same pattern, and most of them were fails because of the pleats.  I totally understand why!  The waist pleats tested the limits of my sewing understanding, and were actually blowing my brain.  This pattern is so ingeniously designed, but the most amazing details are so low key the dress only has an aura of classy simplicity.  To sum things up, a handful of pleats get made first, then another percent of the pleats are made over the ones already made, while rest of the pleats get layered in a opposite direction over only a few of the existing pleats.  I needed the skirt pattern laid out just under my fabric skirt so I could mirror the instructions because no amount of marking kept thing straight, and even still I barely made the pleats correctly.

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At first, the tailoring seems haphazard with no rhyme or reason but once the skirt was on the dress it suddenly made sense.  They were all carefully placed, after all – there are two darts at the skirt were it wraps under to keep things smooth, the biggest pleat layers are at the front hips to ‘hide’ the welt pockets, while the most basic pleating is at the back skirt wrap.  What I cannot figure out yet is the pouf of the pleats seen on the cover – perhaps that ‘look’ comes with a petticoat or using a stiffer fabric?

There are a few details worth noting about this pattern, so that if you do snag your own DSC_0361a-comp,wversion –and I recommend you do – you will be informed.  First of all, the bodice is quite long compared to other 60’s era patterns.  I realized that fact only after I was finished with the dress.  It is really close enough to not be something causing me to unpick and re-sew or detract from my overall fit.  As long as I keep decently good posture (which I should be doing anyway!) the waist is at a pretty good spot, but for my next version (Yes! It will be in cotton, too) I will shorten the bodice at the middle.  The center front neckline, for as high as it already is on me, was actually lowered by about ½ inch.  As much as I love a beautiful boat neckline, this is again something I am ok with as it is, but will slightly change and re-draft differently next time.

Finally, the V-back neckline does have the tendency to gape open and droop off the shoulders without some sort of small help.  My immediate step was to add snap-closed lingerie straps at the tiny shoulder seams to hook onto my underwear.  However I wanted another option not including anchoring the dress to my lingerie, so I sewed the tiniest size hook-and-eye that I had to the back neckline edges where they cross.  The DSC_0363a-comp,whook-and-eye was sewn just underneath and at an angle to the very edge to keep a natural, un-recognizably “tacked down” appearance to the back neckline, and they are just enough that I really don’t need to use the lingerie straps.  Yay!  Fitting crisis averted, style lines kept unaltered, and easy fixes found.  Although this wrap dress hasn’t got a zipper, it does end up having a great fit I never thought possible with a garment that just is thrown and tied on!

This is a project that definitely made me ‘work’ in a good way for a final garment that I love and feel proud wearing.  I would have never guessed a dressy house frock would have given me such a challenge but that is the awesome beauty of using vintage original patterns.  They always have much more than meets the eye…you just have to dive into them to find what good surprises they have to offer.

Speaking of surprises, my dress doesn’t exactly have as much of an overlap to the wrap as I would have liked and it does sort of open up to a ‘surprise’ flash when the wind blows.  Sometimes I safety pin the flap down, but most of the time I don’t…and then this can happen.  I hope the secret message of this photo tells all!

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Princess in Purple – a Two-Piece Formal Set

I for one cannot fathom the popular princess craze for little girls…pink and sparkles, oh my!  Nevertheless, as much as I despise the whole commercialism of it, I’ll sheepishly admit I know I have some inner princess to me.  I must have – why else to I keep going for long full, swishy skirts, love to dress up, and make and wear fancy clothes even when there is really no event to wear them to?  I even remember as an early teen, I made myself this skirt for my birthday…it was ankle length, full, with a sheer small floral cotton over a darker blue lining and I sewed ribbons to hold the fullness back like a bustle.  I felt like Cinderella in my head…oh the things I’ve been happy making and wearing for myself!!!  I think this is (finally) a classy and adult version of princess dressing for me.

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As this season is Prom time and also officially “National Princess Week”, I thought I would post about my newest, formal, princess inspired creation.  My outfit is both vintage and modern inspired, in varying tones of my favorite color purple, and pretty much made with no pattern and no occasion to wear it to.  I just made it because I wanted to, and it made me happy to make something that I half-envisioned wearing in a dream.  Man, where’s my fairy Godmother to magic up a ball for me?  Granted I’ve already found (and married) my “Prince Charming”.

Speaking of hubby, he finds it funny that “National Princess Week” comes just before “National BBQ Week”.  He thinks maybe the two weeks can coincide with a “BBQ princess picnic” – and all I can reply to this is an eye roll and a mental picture of a recipe for a dress disaster.  What do you think?

THE FACTS:

FABRICS:  a purple poly crepe and blue navy chiffon for the skirt with a magenta pink lace and matching buff satin (leftover from making this hat) for the top.  All fabrics were bought at my local JoAnn’s Fabrics store from their special occasion collection.

Simplicity 1690, Leanne Marshal yr. 2013PATTERN:  Simplicity #1690, a Leanne Marshal pattern from 2013 for the top while the skirt was self-drafted by me

NOTIONS:  I only used what was on hand, but this didn’t require much – specialty colored waistband elastic in navy (leftover from this past skirt project), thread, and hook-and-eyes.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  My outfit was finished on August 8, 2016.  The lace top was made in 2 or 3 hours while the skirt took me about 5 hours.

DSC_0017a-comp,wTHE INSIDES:  Nice!  The way my skirt fabrics were cut the selvedge edges are along the hem and waist – the waist is covered with elastic while the hems are turned under into tiny ¼ inch hems.  As the side seams of the sheer and crepe layers are separate, they are French finished.  The top is bias bound.

TOTAL COST:  I really don’t remember exactly how much I spent, even though I recently bought it.  Perhaps I really don’t want to count costs for this one, but it probably wasn’t over $40…

I keep seeing this combo of crop top and full, long skirt popping up everywhere – in some e-mails from Mood Fabrics, in clothes and department store catalogs, in the front window of local formal/bridal shops, and in pattern re-leases.  It seems as if I started seeing such a trend when this past New Year’s celebration fashions were coming out and it has extended into and through the current Prom/school dance season.  I do like the idea of having an easy to wear and/or make option to traditional dresses, especially when it is no less ‘dressy’!  The basic design idea is really simple, too – hey, most ladies have ‘done’ skirts and tops at a regular non-dressy setting – and more body types can fit into a two-piece.  With a such a divided formal set, any little details, every variance of material, and fit differences all can be mixed and matched to have every set different and personalized to each body.  Sorry to ‘sell’ this trend, I just think it is awesome!

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When making my own set, I found that the tops need very little fabric while the skirts are fabric hogs (obviously).  I assume this is why so many of the crop tops to such two-piece formal sets are made of a more stunning fabric than the skirt – you can even out the scales when you pick an expensive material but can make something out of only half a yard of it!  Not that the bottom half isn’t worth it either.  Maybe a de-luxe taffeta skirt might look awesome on the right body/person/with the right color but then you’d need a basic, simple top.  I was tempted to go for the stiffer taffeta skirt-basic top combo, but the inner princess in me called for a swishy bottom.  A lovely lace in the fabric store won me over, too, to the idea.

Very easily do I tend to the color purple…in all its shades.  I still have it in this outfit, it’s DSC_0005a-comp,wjust more disguised!  The inner, lining layer of my skirt is purple, yes, but the sheer, true-blue navy over that combines to make a lovely and new color that changes up my fascination.  (My Anne Klein kitten heels match the over-layer blue, by the way.)  Purple is after all an intermediary between blue and red – so the navy sheer and bright pink are the opposite ends of the spectrum for my lining.  Purple is associated with royalty, making this even more of a princess-y outfit.  Did you know that “in fact, Queen Elizabeth I forbad anyone except close members of the royal family to wear it. Purple’s elite status stems from the rarity and cost of the dye originally used to produce it” says ‘LiveScience’.  Here’s your history nugget for the day…and a reason to buy more purple along with me!

So many patterns for these long full formal skirts called for about 3 yards of fabric.  As I was buying double fabric for my skirt, I did not want to buy or deal with that much fabric.  After all, I was trying to make an idea in my head and sewing it for myself…so why should I confine myself to a pattern at all?  I bought two yards of my skirt fabric and figured things out from there.  I have long been admiring 60’s and 50’s full, pleated skirts that over emphasize the hips and make the waist high and skinny.  Check out my Pinterest boards for some of my inspiration both modern and vintage.  Then, I just used mathematics to make my skirt.  My skirt fabrics were cut on the fold created when the selvedges were lined up (laid out), so my skirt is 30 inches long by four total yards width around.  I know what my waist is and I knew the length of the fabric I had to work with, thus the pleats were figured out the calculating way.

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Double pleats on top of pleats? Yes! I started with deep, sewn-in tucks at the line of the inner fold of the first pair of center pleats, both front and back.  These sewn-in tucks control the fullness of the skirt, keeping in place the under layer of pleats in place so the second layer of pleats can lay right.  You can only see the sewn in pleats when I swirl and my skirt becomes as full as it can be, like in the picture above.

DSC_0019a-comp,wThese double pleats of course make the skirt quite heavy so I chose a decorative elastic waistband to hug my middle tightly.  My problem was how to get it on easily?  I made my skirt have a front closure opening through the middle of the pleats.  It closes with a line of three large hook-and-eyes hidden under the fold edge.  I like to add a brooch or decorative pin over the closure just because it makes the waistband look like a belt, and I do have so many of those sorts of add on pretties.  However, the waist front is also fine without it too, and I’m so glad my hand-sewing is invisible.  Sewing through all the layers – two thicknesses of elastic with all the fabric layers doubled – was tough on my hands.  I was poked quite well a good number of times, as well.  Yup, this was another project I gave blood for…

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Now the top was loosely cut off of Simplicity’s pattern.  I choose the size larger than what I needed, on purpose.  I wanted a wide cropped top to widen my shoulders and emphasize the high waist of my skirt.  Then the hem was cut along the design of the lace a few inches above the waist.  Matching solid poly was cut into bias binding to finish all the edges – inner side and shoulder seams, neckline, and armholes.  Easy!  The only ‘fault’ to the top is that it is airy thin and light, moving around somewhat off of my shoulders sometimes, plus I have to be careful of what I brush against because of the open lace.  It’s just too pretty to find any real problem.  Underneath I’m merely wearing a tube top, but if I ever want a full coverage option, I’ll sew up a second top in a nude or matching pink color.

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Our photo shoot location is at someplace called Tower Grove Park, characterized as “the largest and best preserved 19th-century Gardenesque style city park in the United States”.  It is one of the landmarks to see in our town, as it has historical importance together with lots of spectacular sights (architecturally and in regards to nature).  Among those sights are all the elaborate Victorian pavilions and houses, two of which we captured as the background for my formal set.  For some reason I see Victorian architecture as grandiose, somewhat brooding, mysterious, and flaunting in-your-face elegance.  Those same adjectives can also apply to many of the castles and palaces that many princesses find themselves in…

Have you had a similar project where you made something full-blown fancy, just because you had an idea or wanted to make something specific to wear (occasion or not)?  Do you also find it hard (like me) to have more occasions to dress up?  So many events which used to be fancy are becoming so casual nowadays.  However, there is “National Princess Week” to give us girls of all ages a semi-legitimate excuse to ‘go all out’ the way that pleases your inner nobility.

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“Bright Confetti” Burda’s 1960 Suit Dress

Re-prints of vintage patterns are happily available everywhere nowadays.  Vintage re-released offerings from Burda are fewer than other pattern companies, and they are frequently quite challenging but awesome styles!

My Easter dress this year was one of Burda Style’s re-prints that have been out for a while now.  Ever since I dove into Burda patterns in 2013, this pattern has been one I’ve been wanting to sew – now I finally have made it, and I love it.  It has Paris-influenced details and a style that is put together yet deceptively easy to wear.  This is a year 1960 design of a suit jacket and pencil skirt in the form of a one piece dress…made boldly bright and cheery by using a fun bouclé that happens to remind me of confetti.  Confetti for Easter?  Why not celebrate!

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This makes project number two for the Easter Spring Dress Sewalong 2017.  However, for EasterSpringDress Sew Along Badge 2017those of you that follow my blog, you might have seen I have a ‘tradition’ for the Easter outfit I sew for myself each year.  I think it is an interesting challenge, but I know it probably just sounds weird and even quite quirky.  Starting with my 1929 Vionnet-style dress in 2013, I have been going up in decades (closer to modern times) for each successive year’s Easter dress.  For 2014, I made a silk 1935 dress with a matching slip, for 2015 I sewed a 1944 rayon dress, and then in 2016 I made a 1954 shantung dress and reversible jacket.  Whew!  This ‘tradition’ did make it a bit easier for me to choose what 2017’s outfit would be – a definite 60’s garment.  I blew away a whole lot of things I’ve been waiting to ‘check off’ on my sewing ‘bucket list’ by making this particular Burda Style 1960 garment, though.  It’s from a year which I have not yet sewn from, it is made of a pattern (and fabric) I have long been wanting to use, and it’s a one piece dress to make things relatively easy on myself this year.  Our church’s 1960 era Mid-Century Modern architecture matched perfectly with my outfit anyways!  Here’s to a doubtful but hopeful plan that I might actually find a dressy outfit from the 1970s which strikes my fancy so I can keep my Easter sewing ‘tradition’ going.

THE FACTS:Vintage Bouclé Dress 12-2012 #141

FABRIC:  an acrylic, polyester, ribbon blend novelty boucle lined on a sheer, lime green chiffon with bright pink cotton broadcloth for the facings

PATTERN:  Burda Style #141, released 12/2012, “Vintage Bouclé Dress”

NOTIONS:  Thread, bias tape, interfacing, a zipper, a button, and shoulder pads was what I needed – all of this was on hand already.  The single fake closure button on the dress front is from the stash I inherited from hubby’s Grandmother.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This was finished on April 12, 2017, after about 20 (maybe more) hours to complete.

THE INSIDES:  This fabric shredded and un-raveled like a sewist’s nightmare!  Thus, all the seams are bias bound.

TOTAL COST:  Ah, here’s the sweet part!  The bouclé was bought when a Hancock Fabrics store was closing in 2015, and so I bought several yards of this for just under $2 a yard.  The lining was recently bought at my local Jo Ann’s Fabric Store on clearance for about $5 a yard.  Put all of that together and this dress cost about $15.  Awesome!  I do have one yard of the confetti bouclé leftover, so unless I share it or ‘donate’ it towards one of the projects of others I know who sew, you’ll probably see this again. 

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So much about this outfit screams Coco Chanel to me.  I mean, my ensemble is primarily pink (even my shoes), the fabric is a tweed-like bouclé, it’s a suit with fringed hems, and the Burda magazine summary says this dress has a French couture influence.  How much more Chanel can one get!  (If you’d like more Chanel pink inspiration through the decades, please visit my dedicated Pinterest page.)  In my own country, the famous first lady Jackie Kennedy wore a Chanel pink suit for one of the most iconic moments in Presidential history, 1963.  I did find that this particular waist tab styling isn’t really new, though, it can be seen in earlier decades looking at both the cover of Butterick #4022, year 1947, and a 1956 photo of Ghislaine Arsac.

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Now, 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 off of the downloaded and assembled PDF bought at the online store but if you have a magazine issue, use a roll of medical paper to trace your pieces from the insert sheet.  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.

I found this pattern’s sizing to run on the large size, but perhaps this is because of the weight of material I used.  This confetti color bouclé does not hold its own shape or keep its own body.  A fabric that does both of those things would be the best way to really achieve the right fit and fake bolero appearance.  I know the pattern’s fabric recommendations say the same thing.  I’ll admit I often disregard such guidelines only to end up with a great finished garment, but they are really is important here.  Otherwise this dress is a more of a trick to make than it has to be.  Perhaps a boiled wool (lined, of course) or a suiting blend, might be ideal…however, the fabric recommendations also ask for a fabric which can fray easily.  As of yet, I don’t understand what would be a fabric that is the best of both worlds.  As long as I made it work to sew this pattern out of my lovely novelty suiting, all is well.  You see, I had been saving this up specifically to make a suit dress from the minute I laid eyes on this in the fabric store.  Some pattern and fabric pairings are just meant to be, like a match made in heaven.

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Of all the features, the front fake bolero ‘closure’ at the waist takes the cake to this design.  It is neat, but was so tricky to figure out and actually get it to appear as a bolero.  I whizzed through the rest of the dress, otherwise, but the front probably took up half or 1/3 of the total time spent.  What was really hanging me up was where to snip and what to do with the ends of the pleats which come into the dress from the front waist tabs.  As I figured out, they get tucked into the facings of the tabs, pulled down (more or less) on each side of the tabs.  I would have taken a picture of what I was doing at this step, but unless you make this dress, it’d look like mumbo-jumbo to show you.  Nevertheless, once I had the front mock closure reasonably correct, I further figured out that the real trick is to pull up the 2 inch wide seam allowance to the front waist and connect it to the top of the tab facings.  This way the bodice sort of overhangs onto the skirt, creating the appearance that there is a jacket over a skirt.  Only when I turn to the side or the back then someone might go, “…wait, what?”  What a tricky deceiver!

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The back part to this dress is very basic to vintage 50’s and 60’s patterns, and even modern ones for that matter, but I find it to be shaped very well.  It is common for me to adjust the darts to these type of dress backs.  I almost always need to fix the bootie and/or the shoulder points of the darts…but not this time.  This was quite a relieving change.  As I said above, the pattern runs a bit generous so perhaps this was the reason for my vacation from fitting adjustments.

There were a handful of relatively small changes I made to the design and/or layout.  I straightened out the skirt side seams – originally they tapered into the knee for something like a wiggle silhouette.  No, thanks!  Rather than a slit in the back of the skirt I made the classic kick pleat vent.  I raised the shoulder seam on the bodice (making DSC_0132a-comp,wroom for shoulder pads) and added in 5/8 inch to the sleeve/dress armsyce at the armpit point so I would have “reach room”.  I also cut the sleeves on the bias for more interest in the directional bouclé and for more “reach room”.  The sleeve length turned out quite long (as in bracelet length) so I shortened them by one inch.  Just to be on the safe side, I added in an extra inch to the length of the hem of the skirt bottom.  I did not do a separate lining for the entire inside, but cut out full pieces (except for the skirt front, which is its own piece) to back the bouclé and be sewn into the dress as a whole.  Finally, rather than cutting strips of fabric, shredding them, and finishing off the edges for the sleeve hem and neck, I merely used the fancy selvedge to the fabric.  It worked perfectly to use to selvedge, and I think it looks better and is more stable than using frayed fabric strips.  I only put the frilly edging on the sleeve and neck (not on the skirt) because (again) I was trying to keep up the whole mock jacket appearance.DSC_0110-comp,w

Oddly, what most impresses me is something you’d never see unless you make this dress or wear it for yourself – the inner lining.  The lining skirt has four darts and is significantly smaller than the fashion fabric skirt with its two box pleats.  This design ingeniously keeps the box pleats loose enough to keep a lovely loose shape.  It’s just like the 1950s and 60’s to have this ingenious fitting technique that’s so understated and disguised.  There is so much more than meets the eye to vintage patterns, and as long as a re-issue is decently ‘true’ to its original design, then more amazing techniques can be done by others to sew one’s very own special design, too.

DSC_0120a-comp,wThe difficult but successful process of making yet another Burda vintage re-print has given me a very comfy and cheery dress that I am just plain happy wearing.  With my adjustments, I am not confined at all in this dress so I can walk and bend fully (to find those hidden Easter eggs).  The design makes me put together with one pull of the back zip (so simple).  Finally, the fabric is a lovely standout mix of colors (just like how spring is to the floral world).  So many times, being in a suit dress doesn’t mean all of those things.  Until I started sewing my own garments did I realize you can have the best of both worlds, if you plan a sewing project just right.  In Vogue magazine for February 15, 1954, page 84, Chanel was quoted as saying, “A dress isn’t right if it is uncomfortable…A sleeve isn’t right unless the arm moves easily. Elegance in clothes means freedom to move freely.”  I like that.  Easter is a time to celebrate and appreciate family, nature, and blessings, among so many other things, and I didn’t want what I was wearing to get in way of doing all the ‘good stuff’ to do.  Another Easter might have come and gone, but now I’ve got memories leftover as well as a great dress to wear again and again.  I hope you, too, had a wonderful holiday!