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29 March 2016

Copying an Alexander McQueen dress with Vogue 8828

Woohoo! It's time for my absolute favorite contest: the Bargainista Fashionista contest at Pattern Review. This year I've made my own version of a deceptively simple Alexander McQueen dress. Here's the original and my version.

To make my version I used pattern Vogue 8828, a basic semi-fitted dress with princess seams. In fact, this is the same pattern that I had used for this contest last time when I copied a Fendi dress. I guess I really love this pattern! This time I used view A, sleeveless with an A-line skirt.

The original McQueen dress has a half-mullet skirt on the right, made by the tartan underskirt as it lengthens towards the back. This allows the pretty tartan to show both its right and wrong side, but it means that the dress (or at least that portion of the skirt) could not be lined.

The midthigh front is too short for me, since I always must cover my knees. Also I don't like mullet-skirts, let alone half-mullets. So I lengthened the dress and made a conventional even hem all around. I pondered for a while whether I wanted to keep the same proportions of the original dress, where the tartan underskirt is only a thin sliver at the front.

Instead, I decided that I liked how the tartan underskirt starts around the place where the hands hang. Since I lengthened the skirt quite a bit, this means that my tartan underskirt is a lot bigger in proportion to the rest of the dress, than in the original McQueen dress. Here is a full 360 view around the dress.

The dress was pretty easy to make (until I came to the underskirt). I cut a full lining but I only had 1.5yd of the black stretch wool twill which wasn't enough for the full dress with A-line skirt. This meant that I didn't have the luxury of making a full dress and then cutting the curve out from the complete dress. Instead, I marked the pattern pieces (being careful not to mix left side and right side!) with the cut-out curve. I then constructed the dress as normal.

I went ahead and finished it off completely including the armholes (finished with bias binding) and an invisible zipper at the back seam. At this point I had a complete and finished lined dress, except that there was a hole on the skirt and through this hole you could see the wrong side of the lining (sorry, I forgot to take a photo!).

The cut-off section of the skirt is of course cut off on the diagonal, in other words, on the bias. I remembered that for my Christopher Kane dress such a hem was very unstable and I ended up using a silk organza underlining to stabilize it. This wool twill is too heavy for organza so instead I used a purchased fusible interfacing band ("Vlieseline vormband" in Dutch). The fusible interfacing is reinforced with a chain stitch to keep it from stretching, which is ideal for what I wanted. I applied this band at the hem all around the cut off edge of the skirt.

And here's where the fun began. How to attach a tartan underskirt? I didn't want to make a full second skirt. It would have been too heavy and a waist of pretty fabric. Plus you can see in the original that the tartan doesn't is cut on a different grain. Beyond those observations I didn't have a clue, so I just did what seemed reasonable to me. In other words, I was just sewing by the seat of my pants! So I'll tell you what I did but I have no clue if this is how it's supposed to be done. You've been forewarned!

I decided to attach the tartan underskirt to the lining. I marked the cut-off curve of the skirt on the lining and I then marked a parallel line to that 10cm above (under the outer skirt). I chose 10cm because it seemed like a good enough depth to ensure that the lining wouldn't show as the skirt moved around in normal wear. I then measured the length of this curve and sighed with relief when I realized that it was just a few cm shorter than the width of my tartan wool (157cm wide). I also measured the height of the underskirt from the highest point on the curve in the lining to the hem of the lining (47cm). To this measurement I added 10cm just to make sure that I could have a seam allowance and a deep enough hem that could go at least 1.5cm lower than the lining hem.

I then cut a piece of tartan wool that was 57cm long and the full width of the fabric. I finished both edges with the serger and sewed one of the cut edges (i.e. the crossgrain) to the lining along the curve I had marked.

Yup, this means that the cross grain of the tartan is sewn along the curve on the lining, which is mostly on the bias! I worried a lot about whether the lining would be strong enough. Before I attached the tartan to the lining I sewed a row of stitches along the marked curve on the lining. This allowed me to feel where the tartan should be sewn, but also it was meant to be a "reinforcement". When attaching the tartan to the lining, I made sure that the stitching line was always a millimeter or two above this reinforcement line, so that the weight of the tartan would be shared by two seams. I also thought I could add a twill tape on top of the tartan edge and attach it with one or two more rows of stitches. But then I worried that this would be too much. I think I'll just see how the lining holds up. If I see signs of stress I might still do the twill tape thing.

I then put the dress on the dress form and marked the hem all around the tartan piece. The resulting shape is a sort of half circle but a bit more oval.

Here is me trying to show you the various layers of the skirt + underskirt + lining. I hope the photo is not too dark for you to see.

I've now worn it to work for a day and can report that the lining seems to be holding the weight of the tartan with no signs of stress. Phew!

I leave you with another set of full 360 pics. These are darker but you might still get a good sense of how the dress hangs and moves.

As I mentioned at the top, I entered the dress in the Bargainista Fashionista contest, so here is my review of Vogue 8828 at Pattern Review.

Bargainista Fashionista 2016

15 March 2016

I was the random prize winner!

Little Red Dress Contest

Woohoo! I cannot believe my good luck! My ruffled red dress was the random prize winner in the Little Red Dress contest at Pattern Review.

The prize was a gift certificate for Eva Dress patterns. Eva Dress was the sponsor of this contest and I have to say that their prizes are very generous. Given their pattern prices, this gift certificate was enough for at least 2 or 3 patterns from their site. And that is definitely a good thing because they have so many beautiful patterns that I would not have been able to choose only one.

If you have never visited them, you must check out Eva Dress right now. They sell reproductions of vintage patterns from the 1860's to the 1950's. I have never before bought a pattern from them, but I had my eye on a few of them already for a while. Now I get the chance to try them out, woohoo!

So here is what I ordered:

A dress from 1937 with a lovely gathered front.

A pattern for Claire McCardell's famous wrap dress from 1957.

And an incredible fur-trimmed coat pattern from 1929. This coat has been made before, by Jo Ann of Louisville, KY. You can see her review of this coat at Pattern Review as well. It won the 2013 Eva Dress Pattern Contest and I can see why, what a fabulous coat this is.

That fur collar is stuffed! How cool is that? I'm actually a bit intimidated by this pattern, but also quite keen to try my hand at it and see what comes out. That's one of the attractions of vintage patterns, isn't it, trying out things that you just don't see in modern clothes anymore.

I can't wait to get my Eva Dress patterns in the mail. Am I a lucky girl or what? Many thanks Pattern Review and Eva Dress!

P.S. The three pattern images above are taken from the Eva Dress website. They remain the property of Eva Dress.

06 March 2016

Burda 11-2013-133, a dress with a sunburst of darts

Ponte dresses are the workhorses of my office wardrobe, because they can be so comfortable while still looking presentable. For my next ponte dress I wanted it to be in a solid color, but there had to be some interest to it so that I didn't just look like a giant cylinder.

Well, I think we have mission accomplished with Burda 11-2013-133. The "sunburst" of darts all radiating from a single point at front and back fit the bill perfectly. I made option B, without the stand up collar.

I actually missed this dress the first time when I leafed through the Burda Style magazine because it is photographed in a busy print knit that hides the unusual darts. But then Beth from Sunny Gal Studio made it for a client and she highly recommended it for being so flattering. And as usual she is right about this pattern.

Burda 11-2013-133 is a plus sized pattern, so it starts at size 44. I typically make size 40 at top and 42 at bottom, so I knew I would have to grade the pattern down. Since I was also worried that it might be too tight I only graded it down one size, to 42. That turned out to be a bit too loose I think. I guess I should have made a muslin, but I never do for ponte knits because... well, I don't have a crappy ponte sitting in my stash waiting to be used for a muslin. And using actual muslin or a non-stretch fabric obviously wouldn't work. So, I'm not sure how to make muslins for ponte garments short of actually buying extra fabric. How do you guys do it when you sew with ponte knits? Do you just dive right in like I did or do you make a muslin? And if you do, what do you use? In any case, my grey dress is still quite wearable, so I'm not too sorry.

The radiating darts are the star of the dress and any mismatched darts would be literally front and center for everyone to see. So no pressure there... I am getting good at matching seams with the sewing machine but with a serger is a very different story! Not wanting to risk it at all, I first machine basted all the darts and the seams where they meet. I used a contrasting color thread so that I could easily see it and ensure that the serger sewed on top of it, keeping the seams matched. This worked like a charm to match the seams with the serger, hooray! The annoying bit came when I tried to pull out the basting thread, since being sewn over made it stubbornly difficult to remove. Oh, well. Small price to pay I say.

Still, my darts don't all truly match at a single point. That is because the fabric is somewhat thick (as most pontes are) and at the very center you have 8 layers of fabric! I graded them as best I could, and I think I fared relatively well. The millimeter differences are only visible if you really inspect the seam from close up and let me tell you, nobody is coming *that* close to my belly button!

After the radiating darts, my favorite feature of this dress is the slit neckline. Because the slit is rather deep, my head fits through the neckline with no problem at all. And since all the seams are stretchy I can skip the zipper altogether, woohoo!

Since I get cold at the office and to dress it up a bit, I made a knit cardigan-slash-jacket to go with it. I used a thin knit in tomato red for the wonderful contrast that it brings to the grey column of the dress. The pattern is McCall's 6844. It was voted Best Pattern of 2013 at Pattern Review and with 130 reviews I think everything has already been said about this pattern. I made view C, with the peplum that is longer in back than at front. Oh, okay, I'll say one thing about this pattern. Don't be tempted to skip the interfacing on the collar. I am always looking for shortcuts that I can get away with but leaving the interfacing out of this jacket will just end in tears. The collar hangs infinitely better when it is interfaced.

Ah, and a note for myself. I have a pear shaped body, so my shoulders are narrower than my hips and I always make a size smaller on top than on bottom. But with this jacket, I had to use size M all around as usual but go down to size S at the shoulders. The problem was not that the shoulder seam stretched out because I sewed it with a strip of selvedge precisely to keep it from stretching. Either the pattern has wider shoulders than usual, or perhaps the collar opens easily and pushes the shoulder point further out. In any case, going to the size S shoulder was a very quick fix.

BTW, if you are wondering what is going on with the brick background in my photos, the answer is yes, it is photoshopped. I am living in a new house now, and I am still looking for the best place to take blog photos. Instead of that plain brick wall that I used to have before, the one I have now has a window, a hanging plant and a door, all of which I find distracting. So I've copied areas of brick and pasted them over these offending features. Hence the weirdness that you see. But I think I'll keep looking for a better place to photograph because in addition to looking weird, all that photoshopping takes too much time. We'd rather be sewing instead, wouldn't we?!

Here is my review of Burda 11-2013-133 at Pattern Review.