“Retro Forward” Burda Style – “Fill in the Blanks” Gather and Tuck Dress with Purse

If garments could be reasonably conscious, this dress would definitely be very confused.  My original plan was to make a knock off a Dolce & Gabbana outfit from fall of 2016, but the pattern which I used for the dress is from 2013.  The knit tulip fabric I used is vintage from the 1970.  My husband says the finished dress reminds him of the 1980’s, and here I thought it reminded me of the 1930’s!  Finally my purse was self-drafted off of an existing 1940’s leather purse from my wardrobe but has more of a 1950’s air now that it’s completed. Gosh – almost every decade from the past 80 years has some sort of influence (in our eyes) to this outfit.  Confused much?!  Is your brain alright?  I know my head is swimming.


Linda of “Nice dress! Thanks, I made it!!” hosted the “Designing December” months back now and personal illness combined with a busy holiday season made for my being unable to even get around to making this dress and purse until recently.  Besides, everything that had to come together for me to even work on this project was slow and time consuming, but don’t get me wrong totally worth every minute.  Thus, my outfit is being blogged late but perfect for those chilly spring season days that hang around right about now.  It might be spring, but it feels like winter some days in our climate…and this subtle but cheery, long sleeve black dress with a season-less hound’s-tooth fashion purse suits those times perfectly.  I know because it was quite brisk and windy the day we took these photos, and I am sensitive to the chill.  Sigh…a warm enough spring is so long in coming sometimes.  That’s why I need to wear some bright tulips!


FABRIC:  for the dress: The tulip fabric is a polyester interlock knit vintage from the 1970s ordered through an Etsy shop, the skirt flounce is a modern, newly bought solid black poly interlock while the lining fabric is the same except in white.  The neckline facing is a cotton broadcloth remnant.  For the purse:  novelty hound’s-tooth felt and polyester imitation snakeskin (leftover from this dress) for the outside, light blue lining on the inside with a big pocket made from a scrap of cotton leftover from this apron.#112 Gather and Tuck dress, line drawing

PATTERN:  Burda Style’s Gather and Tuck Dress, #112, from September 2013; no pattern for the purse, it was self-drafted

NOTIONS:  This dress and purse used up a lot of what was sitting around on hand – such as charms, buttons from my Grandma, elastic, interfacing, and thread.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  I have no idea how much time I spent to prep the tulip fabric, but the making of the dress took about 8 to 10 hours.  The purse was started and finished in 4 hours.  Both were done and ready to be worn on March 13, 2017.

TOTAL COST:  The vintage tulip knit was about $10, the modern interlock knit (in both black and white) for the bottom flounce and the lining were just under $20, and the cost for all the fabric pen packages was $15.  Everything for the purse was already on hand (bought years back) so I’m counting that and all the notions used from out of my stash as free.  I suppose this outfit is a total of $45.  This is more than I typically spend for many other outfits I like much better than this one, but I had a creative itch I needed to scratch!

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.


First off, I will say that my first impression of the dress at the pattern stage was one of strong dislike.  The comments on the bottom of the pattern’s page online express “terrible look” and “reminds me of Downton Abbey”, and yes, I agree. However, the line drawing is what kept pulling me in…the style lines are lovely and indeed vintage inspired.  This is why my dress is included in my ongoing “Retro Forward Burda Style” blog series.  As to the vintage inspiration, I listed most of it at the top of this post.  My favorite vintage pattern that I think looks quite similar is a Pictorial Review Pattern from the 1930’s, no 6459 (picture on Pinterest).  It is labelled as a “Duchess de Crussol (d’Uzes)” personal pattern design, and as that is one of the oldest premier dukedom in France, this design must have been a big and rare deal for Pictorial Review to offer.  After all, Dolce & Gabbana’s summary of their collection references “the ’30/’40s shoulder line of the Cinderella-referenced puffed sleeves.”  Modernly, though, I feel like the “Gather and Tuck” dress is a slightly poufier version of another one of their patterns – Burda #7127.  Perhaps I should have chosen this dress design instead…oh well, too late for this thinking.

I had the feeling the “Gather and Tuck” dress design needed something bold and not in the least cutesy or else I could not pull off wearing/liking it.  Enter one of my favorite fashion houses – Dolce & Gabbana to the rescue courtesy of their Fall 2016 ready-to-wear Dolce & Gabbana Fall 2016 Ready-to-Wear -comp,comborunway releases.  I love all the details of that whole entire line (especially this one), an occurrence unique to me, but the tulip dress especially struck me…it was just something I had to have for my own and it would be something unique for my wardrobe.  Luckily, it strongly reminded me of Burda’s “Gather and Tuck” dress.  Now I had a tip as to what fabric print might work for such a quaintly designed pattern!  Then came along Linda’s “Designing December” sewing challenge and I knew what I had to make for it.  Finally, because I love to go all out for an awesome outfit, I even imitated the purse.  The model’s handbag reminded me of a project I had been wanting to make for the last 3 years, with the hound’s-tooth fabric and everything I needed to make a purse luckily (and conveniently) waiting downstairs to be whipped together.  Granted I know my outfit is not an exact copy, but to make a carbon copy would have resulted in something I might not have liked as much as this version which still stays true to my own taste.  I do not know if I fully succeeded in achieving what I’d hoped and envisioned originally in my head for this outfit, but I feel like it’s a successful attempt.  If I can’t buy designer, I’ll have my own designed style!

What is the most special and time-consuming part to making this project is the fabric.  It is hand colored!  That’s right – why just leave the current coloring craze to be restricted to paper pages in books?! This was a complicated yet invested choice – a desire to have something incredibly personal, creative, and out-of-the-box, as well as out of necessity. I could not remotely find any tulip print I liked to also have a lovely drape except for a 2 DSC_0882a-comp,wyard remnant piece of old 1970’s era knit in a black and white tone.  So I used fabric pens to color in the yellow tulips and draw in two-tone green leaves to end up with the closest possible match to the original Dolce & Gabbana fabric.  I worked in spurts, setting aside about an hour or two at a time to fill in a portion of the fabric until it was done.  Yet, I didn’t just color – a tried to add texture when drawing the leaves and a hint of yellow to the flowers, not an overpowering brightness, with a random tough of black for the stamens.  Too bad the true-to-life colors do not translate well enough through the pictures as they are in real sight.

Using fabric pens was fun, but also sort of a nightmare.  I actually had to end up buying 5 packages (two different brands) just to finish.  The fabric pens were brush tipped and between the material soaking up the ink and also fuzzing up the tip of the pens, there was a disappointingly short life to them.  The tough part was the specific green colors I was using.  The dark forest green and the lime green were hard to find in the heat-set type of fabric pens I preferred to use.  I found some online but the seller on Ebay that I ordered from was dishonest and sent me something I did not order.  Desperate, I ended up finding what I needed to finish from Wal-Mart, which had these cheap $3 packs which worked well enough.  From this experience, I can say that three things – I think Crayola fabric pens are the best working brand of fabric pens, I definitely prefer heat-set fabric pens, and make sure to have several back-ups of your colors before doing a project.  This is advice from a lesson well learned.


Now, to get to some info on the actual sewing of the dress!  I found the sleeves to be rather skinny, the top half of the skirt to run small, and the rest of the dress a tad on the generous side.  It sewed up pretty well, but some of the directions were just plain bad and ended up a little silly and bulky.  The “slash-and-gather” darts at the waist and the mid-shoulder line are by far my favorite feature but kind of turned out a little weird looking where they end to meld into the dress.  Two of my 1940’s projects (see here and here) have very similar “slash-and-gather” dart details at the shoulder line, although this Burda pattern has them on the back as well…very nice!  The pattern originally called for only one button at the top of the closure, but I felt the pull from the gathers made me feel that the neckline needed another.  The bottom third button is decoration only.  I did leave out the wrist button closing on the sleeves, as my fabric is a stretchable knit.  Other than the button closures, I made no real changes to the design.  When you see the V-neckline in some of my pictures that is not a permanent thing.  See – it’s merely me folding half of the high neckline inside for an easy and quick change to the look of the dress.

Perhaps you didn’t notice, but there are no closures needed to be dressed in this frock.  The waistband gathers are mostly from an elastic casing made out of the waist seam allowance, and besides the neckline buttons, that is everything it takes to put this dress on.  I’m so used to zippers in a dress that it kind of felt as if I was forgetting something.  This one feature offering both easy dressing and lack of zipper setting was a nice change for me to come across.


So…after everything I’ve said, I am not all that crazy about my dress.  Pooh pooh!  It is comfy, easy to move in, feminine, and flowing.  Wearing a sweater with it makes the dress better in my opinion, but then you can’t see all the details…meh.  I just am not 100% decided that I love it or even look good in it.  “Is it only weird or obviously dated?” I wonder.  That lack of full confidence is what’s holding me back, but the amount of time and work invested in this project makes me think, “I’d better darn well wear this and be proud of what I made…”  I have to throw some of my indecision to the wind (literally as it was breezy the day of these pictures) and just be content.


To be definite about one thing, I am absolutely tickled about the purse.  I really could not be happier with it and it should see much use being so roomy, practical, and stylish all at the same time.  I am resigned to not having an awesome buckle (like the original Dolce & Gabbana one) because my purse has a perfectly matched novelty hound’s-tooth printed zipper instead!  This was combined with the opportunity to use some snazzy “Hilary Duff” brand charms from out of my jewelry stash to ‘bling’ up the closing flap.  I do love Fleur-dis-lis anything!

DSC_0302a-comp,wThat hound’s-tooth print of the purse is felt, but is was first strengthened with iron on interfacing then re-enforced, as was the rest of the purse, with stiff sewing interfacing.  This way it keeps its shape well.  The edges were covered and stitched with self-fabric binding but every other seam is self-enclosed by the combo of lining/flap facing.  There are buckles coming out of the side panel pleats, so I can totally change out purse straps into something else if I so please.  The zipper was hand-sewn in last, not to necessarily make things hard for myself, but because there was no seam to connect to on one side and I wanted invisible stitching.  All in all, my one regret is that I did not make a pattern out of what I was doing so I can re-create it or even share it, too.  I just wanted to enjoy making it and get it done so I could use it!  What a one track mind I have at times…

Simplicity 1727, year 2012For the record, I did go the extra mile to make a removable collar out of the black imitation snakeskin that went on my purse.  The original Dolce & Gabbana dress has a black swede collar on it and I intended to imitate that but hated it on me on the dress.  I’m so glad I didn’t sew the collar into the dress!  I used a Simplicity #1727, a pattern of nothing but various removable collars.  My make from it turned out great and I will show it to you, just not with this post.  I seriously don’t know how the model pulls off the whole outfit so well with the collar, though!  I will try to match my collar with something yet and show you then.

Investing so much effort in this outfit might not have given me the best results, but I learned from it, did new things, and followed an idea.  Taking the safe and sure route for a sewing project doesn’t always do all of those things, right?!  It’s all part of what sewing and creating is about, anyways.  “Fashion makes people dream—this is the service fashion gives,” Stefano Gabbana has said.  I agree.


A 1940’s Faux-Alligator Leather Purse

I have now made a few hats (see here , here, and here), and found them so much easier than expected, so next I’ve experimented making a purse. My vintage purses do get used but are too old and nice for daily wear and tear, so my natural recourse was to make my own. This purse was easy to make on little fabric and therefore easily replaceable…I’ll just make another! Yet, because I made it myself, I know it’s sturdy and should last through more wear than I would want a vintage purse to endure – an authentic vintage accessory with newly made, personalized benefits!


You can see my purse being used and co-ordinated with an outfit in this post of my entry for Emily’s Vintage Visions “Fall Color Photo Contest”.


FABRIC:  It is a fake-leather with an “alligator skin” finish. The lining fabric is a basic black cotton broadcloth. The bottom panel circle is supported by tarlatan.

NOTIONS:  None were needed to buy…this purse was made from what was on hand.

PATTERN:  The pattern is a free download which can be found at “Sew Vera Venus” on her “Free Patterns and Tutorials” page.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  My purse took a handful of hours spent on two afternoons for a total of about 6 hours. It was finished on October 7, 2015.

THE INSIDES:  What insides? The lining covers all.

TOTAL COST:  Well, I bought the fake-leather from Wal-mart. It was 60 inch width, for a price of $8 a yard. I only bought ¾ of a yard (about $6), and I used only half of a half of what I had to make my purse. The lining came from scraps on hand, and tarlatan is something I always have on hand now, too, so my total cost was insanely cheap – about $1.50.


Everything about my new purse just tickles me…I’m so pleased with everything about how it turned out. The finished size proportions are perfect for me – it’s large enough to hold my wallet and favorite basic items but still small enough to not be an awkward bulky box, overwhelming my outfit. The handle is convenient, easy-to-hold, and just long looped enough to sit on my shoulder (not preferred, but thankfully an option if I really need it). Best of all, this purse is an extremely economical fabric needy pattern, in other words you don’t need much at all to make it – two small trapezoid squares, two small long rectangles, and a tiny circle. It’s so basic, simple, and absolutely amazing.

When enlarging the pattern on the photocopy machine, I actually enlarged the pattern an extra 10% more than directed just for good measure. It seems that many vintage purses are generally too small for my taste, but until I made this purse, I sort of resigned myself to that fact. Unless you want a pouch, satchel, or cross-body style, which does keep items as compartmentalized to my taste, that’s how handbag styles were during the 1940’s…on the small side. I don’t think women carried as much as women do nowadays and it wasn’t the same things that were in purses 70 years ago, anyway. This purse that I made is my perfectly pleasing in between size.


I did find the instructions for assembly a bit too crafty oriented. I practically disregarded instructions and made my purse by true sewing construction methods. For example, the ties are instructed to be made by turning cutting one tie from the fashion material with the other “raw” side as a grosgrain ribbon. They say to turn the edges of the fashion material in and basically cover those raw edges with the ribbon by gluing the two together. Now, I cut two of each tie from the fashion material (my faux leather) and sewed the two together, right sides in, just like regular ties for belts or garment sewing. Then the ties I made were turned inside out (this was hard considering the thickness and stiffness of my material), with the edges rolled out and top-stitched down. My Hubby thinks that constructing the purse using sewing methods makes this purse look much more finished and professional. Gluing the straps together makes it obvious to the sight of others how it was put together, whereas making them like ties, with the raw edges inside, is mysteriously and smoothly put together. Besides these reasons, constructing from a crafty approach provides a finished purse that will not hold up as well for as long as a time – gluing edges cannot be stable as covered, stitched edges.100_6251a-comp

I also have a beef about how the circular bottom is gets constructed according to the instructions. They tell you to make this sort of pocket inside the bottom where you can slide in your chosen means of stability, such as a round of plastic or cardboard, before adding in the lining to close it all up. Really? After making my 1940 velvet hat, and after looking at other authentic purse patterns, adding tarlatan (or some sort of horsehair interfacing/stiff muslin) to the bottom circle is the best and clearly more authentically 40’s option. Tarlatan is easy to sew and work with, doesn’t add much extra thickness, is washable, but keeps a crisp, flexible stiffness perfect for the purse bottom. Tarlatan is mostly to be found in art supply stores nowadays.


My purse is actually the first of my projects where people who compliment me on it do not believe me when I say that I made it. I have to explain myself a few different ways (such as “Yes, I started with fabric and a pattern”), or I get looked at like I’m crazy, or I’m just disregarded, but nobody yet has easily accepted the fact I made my purse. This says something that I like about the right way to make this purse pattern.

100_6389-compSewing with this fake-leather was wonderful and so much easier than expected. I am impressed my 1980’s Brother machine handled it like cutting through butter (it’s those all metal parts and the “thick fabric” setting). I did use pins to help keep the pieces together, I just kept the pins in the seam allowance area (which was ½ inch, for your F.Y.I.). My purse was entirely sewn by machine, excepting the little decorative tab which goes across the front crisscrossed ties. The tab was sewn down by hand.

Custom sized pockets are sewn onto the lining inside at the back panel (the one with the fold over top and longer strap). I’m not ashamed to admit I’m a one month newbie to an android smartphone (not exactly my decision), but this large and skinny brick doesn’t fit well now in smaller purses. Thus, I made sure to have a pocket which would fit my two high-priority modern “needs” – my phone and my lipstick. I took an extra button placket piece from another project and applied it to my purse lining before sewing it, making sure to leave enough room along the edges and bottom for the seam allowance. Oh, the irony of a pocket for a smartphone going into a vintage purse…I love it!


Adding in the lining was the most complicated part, but it was fun. You place the finished lining back to back with the finished bag, mirror image style, and sew along the arched box top flap and partly into the front straight edge. Make sure to get a sharp edge where the flap edge and the front straight edge meets – this is where the top folds over and without a nice corner you might end up with too much of a gap. I snipped the curves, trimmed the seam down, and turned the lining inside the purse to top stitch the edges down. This step is like magic…I said to myself, “Cool! One step and where did the seams go?!” The front straight edge seam allowances where tuned in and double top-stitched down for stability.

100_6288-compStaggering the lining at the bottom helped the lining hang like a second skin, with no major difference between the two layers. On the side seams of the main body towards the top edge I made the seam allowance the same as the faux-leather (in order to sew them together) but down towards the bottom I went up a ¼ inch. On the bottom of the lining, the circle had a ¾ inch seam allowance while the joining main body had a seam allowance of 5/8 inch. Sounds weird, probably, but it really works well, and I must have some super technical spot in my head for it to make me so pleased.

Besides my changes in construction and personalization touches, this really is a great pattern, so deceptively perfect for beginners to purse-making like myself. Purses and hats might feel intimidating (they do for me), but I find approaching them from a sewing perspective helps. After all, they get sewn together just the same as garments…they just turn out really special and you end up “wearing” on yourself them differently than clothes 🙂pin combo pic-comp

To instantly glam up this purse, it’s as easy as adding on a pin or a shoe clip to the front tab, like the pattern shows. Here I tried a shoe clip and a vintage pin. I can also see a flower corsage going on the front, too, maybe with a purse made from another material other than faux leather.

Now, I love perusing through pictures of patterns…hey, what vintage sewer doesn’t?! Most especially I love the ingenuity of World War II era 1940’s purse designs, whether made already (vintage originals) or at the simple pattern stage. I notice that many of the ways the purses are shaped and close on themselves are strikingly similar to oriental designs and origami folds. Seeing their creative methods of closing sends fireworks of ideas and inspiration ideas in my head.

40s purses combo #1262mcall & 1945 Vogue #3029Granted there isn’t enough time in anyone’s life for them to make everything for themselves, just know that if you can sew, you can make a purse too! Purses are pricey nowadays, and rarely have everything I like (size, pockets, color, and material) in one item. No more – there isn’t any reason to feel compelled to drop a whole lotta dough on a purse if you can make your own just how you like it! My next goal is to make a green faux alligator skin purse to replace one that fell apart on me. Keep watching my blog for more unusual sewn accessories.