I love it when modern patterns imitate vintage styles. It’s always so interesting and offers the best of both worlds. I have a handful of favorite designers from today, but precious few actually come out with patterns of their lovely ideas. Luckily, the wonderful Rachel Comey offers her designs through Vogue, and I adore her slightly vintage style aesthetic.
This dress is one straight out of the 1940s! It totally feeds my obsession with peplums, my late summer penchant for the color blue, and my love of fine details. It is such a cottony soft, pastel treat on the senses combined with a swirl-worthy dress which is so comfy I really don’t sense that I am as dressed up as I appear. What a win-win…vintage made modern – all the ease of casual attire paired with the appearance of being classy. This is me-made clothing at its best!
FABRIC: a printed, sheer, batiste all-cotton lined in a combo of cotton blend broadcloth for the main body and a poly remnant for the peplum
PATTERN: Vogue #1209, a Rachel Comey pattern from 2010
NOTIONS: All I needed was lots of thread, and a zipper with a bit of interfacing. There was nothing but the basics needed for this beauty!
THE INSIDES: All raw edges are covered up by the full lining
TOTAL COST: This dress cost me less than $10
Making this dress had been something I wanted to do ever since the pattern first came out. Yes, sometimes my favorite projects in my sewing queue keep being pushed back again and again sadly, but that just makes them such a relief and enjoyment to wear when they are finally finished!
I had to do a bunch of extra figuring to do any adjustments on this complex design. I changed up the bottom half of the dress the most drastically. Firstly, I wanted the dress knee length, but that included re-configuring the peplum to match. Yet, I also wanted the back peplum to be more 1940s waterfall style (similar to this vintage original featured in Threads magazine) and trickle down to meet the side seam at a much lower point. I eliminated the center seam to the peplum, as well, for a better drape on the bias. All of this wasn’t too tricky but it did take a clear head, much forethought, and make for a much bigger pattern piece which required a lot more fabric than the back numbers called for. Luckily, I had about 5 or 6 yards of my chosen fabric (only because it was on deep clearance…so cheap yet super soft I couldn’t leave any behind) so I felt comfortable doing any alterations. This doesn’t always happen so well. Usually I have pre-bought a very specific amount and expect to layout the pattern pieces economically so there is not always room for such license with a design. This was a fun change!
Going further with the top half of the dress, I also slightly raised the back dip of the V neckline, which meant tweaking the gathers and extending the tab that covers them. Also, because my body size had changed since I bought the pattern (2010 was before I gave birth to our son), I had a size that was too small and I had to grade up a bit. Oh, not to forget, everything I changed to the fit and the styling of the skirt and peplum had to be likewise translated over to the full body lining as well. Ugh. With all these adjustments, though, I really don’t think the dress looks obviously that much different that the cover original and that is just what I wanted. I was aiming for a slightly more vintage tweak, yet still adhering to Rachel Comey’s design that attracted me to the pattern in the first place. As I said, above, it’s the best of both worlds, and all in a soft cotton. Who knew cotton could be so elegant and fluttery? I didn’t. This dress is a winner.
Part of what helps my version of this dress work, I believe, is an interesting situation I concocted with the lining. Cotton on cotton tends to be ‘sticky’ as I call it, clinging together like Velcro because of the soft, brushed touch to it. So, I chose the full body lining to be in a half cotton-half polyester blend broadcloth. The little bit of man-made in the broadcloth really keeps the two layers apart quite nicely. The nude, skin-toned tan color of the lining keeps the outer printed fashion fabric from both obviously appearing lined as well as being as sheer as a tissue, which it was on its own. The full body lining really gives the dress its shape because it is a very basic design that counters the gathers and details going on with the outside, good side of the garment (besides nicely covering up all the inner seams). Both layers to my dress being cotton makes for a breathable dress even though it is not the lightest weight. What I discovered is that the lining is the first to absorb my sweat on a hot day and generally keeps the outer fashion fabric to the dress appearing so cool and pristine in any heat. What a sneaky little way to pull off being chic in any weather! Ladies just ‘glisten’ and not sweat anyway, right?!
Part two of the lining trickery has to do with the back peplum. I sensed that a tiny hem along the bottom edge of the peplum just wasn’t going to work. Besides, as I mentioned in the paragraph above, the paisley fabric was sheer and being a lightweight cotton would not drape properly on its own. It needed to be fully lined. More of the cotton-poly broadcloth I used to line the body would weigh the peplum down and make the dress too heavy. So I reached for a scrap I had on hand of a nude-tan color, all-poly, cling-free lining which was luckily in the exact same nude tan color as my broadcloth. Hooray for saving remnants and knowing what you have (thanks to organizational drawers)! This lightweight and silky poly was the perfect solution for a soft peplum that hangs softly, becomes a weightless addition to its dress, and has a pretty – yet not flashy and distracting – underside. I kind of did feel badly (silly, really, I know) for adding a bit of man-made to this lovely cotton frock, but I figure that’s the beauty and attraction striving towards the will-o’-the-wisp ‘perfect’ garment. One piece of clothing that is engineered to be well thought out, like a finely crafted machine, yet soft enough to recognize and reflect the lovely human being inside of it is worth pounds of store offered, low quality, fast fashion.
The finishing touches I added included little ribbon lingerie straps on the inside of the shoulders. With such a wide neckline, the snap-closing straps connect the shoulders of the dress to my bra straps for a dress that stays put on my body. Of course, with the center front and center back having practically the most detailing on the dress, that meant there is a side seam zipper, very much like the traditional 1940s garment. It is only slightly awkward because of all the material to the skirt, but with the wide neckline this dress is still easier to put on than those WWII ones.
So, I’ll ask for you…am I done with peplums yet? Not at all. (See my other peplum projects here – a long post WWII one, a shorter 40’s blouse version, a front peplum dress, a pleated hip peplum 50’s style dress, and one on a modern asymmetric top) Ever since there was one amazing vintage peplum dress that got away from me, this ‘bug’ in my system will take a while to work its way out. Am I done with blue tones this year’s late summer sewing? Nope. Sorry, I’m not sorry. Maybe it’s the way blue is cool to my eyes and mind, or perhaps it’s the way I feel blue is a versatile transitional color, matching with tan, grey, and other fall tones. Either way, I now finally have yet a long awaited project to enjoy wearing for years to come, and yet another interpretation of how blue is one of my ways to get ready – mentally and tactility – for cooler weather. Of course, my opposite hemisphere is looking forward to warmer weather, at this point, so hopefully my wistfulness at our fading season is your inspiration!