Wearability: sleeveless black dresses

Time for another review of how some of my projects have worn over the years. This time I’m looking at three different black dresses, all sleeveless.

The oldest is Vogue 1410, a Lynn Mizono design. I made it in 2014 and it’s still going strong. It’s a very clever pattern. The insides are finished beautifully with French seams and the hem is adjustable to four different lengths by way of buttonholes and buttons on the inside of the side seams. I added side seam pockets to my version but otherwise made it up as the pattern instructed, scorching my fingers pressing the tiny hems around the neck and armscyes.

Here’s the second shortest length. This is flattering but I find it is a bit too short for comfort most days. The shortest one is much too short to be wearable and the second longest doesn’t look good on me.

When I made this I didn’t expect I’d ever wear it at the longest length, but to my surprise I find this is the best of all. It reveals the lantern shape of the skirt and feels modern and architectural. But best of all it is easy to throw on, requiring no great thought about choice of footwear or matching with other pieces.

The dress has an elastic cord which pulls it in under the bust. When my son was small he found it soothing to play with, so wearing the dress now reminds me of him as a baby.

The black fabric is a little faded after six years; otherwise it’s in good condition. I’ll definitely remake this one when it finally falls to pieces. But I’m going to finish the edges with bias tape next time to save my fingers.

Next up is an old favourite, Burda 117 02/2012. I’ve made this pattern many times, tweaking it in every iteration. This version is made from a dirt cheap mystery black scuba bought in the Birmingham Rag Market. It’s probably polyester with lycra.

It doesn’t show well in the photos but the pattern has lots of diagonal seamlines. This is a great pattern for colour blocking but I have preferred my solid versions. The scuba fabric is perfect for the style: thick enough to provide coverage but still with plenty of stretch. When I wear this I feel smart but still very comfortable. This version has become a staple for work days, especially in winter when I put a long sleeved black t-shirt and thick black tights under it.

I made the pattern again more recently in a grey ponte, slightly thinner than the scuba, and it’s not as good. The grey fabric is showing wear already. But the scuba is indestructible; a good thing because I think I’ll be wanting to wear the black dress for years to come.

The last dress of the three is the least successful. This is Vogue 1501, a Rachel Comey design. The pattern didn’t appeal to me on first release but then I read a few blogs where people raved about their versions. What sold me on it was the promise of an interesting shape that was still easy to wear. The bodice only attaches to the skirt at centre front and the rest floats free so it’s a summer-only dress.

I was very pleased with it when I finished it, but the weather turned just then and I didn’t get a chance to wear it until the following summer. And since then, for some reason, it has mostly stayed in the wardrobe. I think it’s a little too fussy for me. The bodice doesn’t stay in place particularly well, and the fabric is too warm to go with a sleeveless style. I normally like a garment with shoulder pads, but they don’t seem appropriate for the sort of hot sunny weather when I’d wear this.

I’m not sure what to do about this one. I probably should have made it out of linen and skipped the shoulder pads but it’s too late now. I can’t bring myself to part with it just yet so it will stay in the wardrobe a while longer while I try to come up with a way to wear it.

22 thoughts on “Wearability: sleeveless black dresses

  1. Very nice LBDs! I love the Mizono of course [I should do, I have 4 of them…or is it five?] Definitely better with bias edgings- I never ever do those small turned hems on curved edges, not strong enough for my tastes. My favourite of my versions is the checked wild silk, it always feels rather Westwood-esque, but I also like the poly dupion version, which is very sculptural and glam. That Comey one does look problematic to wear, I didn’t like the idea of free floating top and skirt, too much belly-flash potential!

  2. I have the Mizono dress too but didn’t bother fiddling with buttons to change the length. Seeing yours with tights/leggings maybe I ought to as it looks good.
    I believe I may have bought some of that indestructible scuba too but I have temporarily lost the bag with all of my black fabric inside. I’m sure it will turn up, and if I can make something as useful as your dress I’ll be happy.
    The last dress is nice but I can see why it would be more difficult to wear. It still looks good on you 😊

  3. What an interesting review – I think it is really great to revisit old makes and see how they fare over time. I’ve had things I’ve been delighted with when I’ve made them, yet have had little wear and then others that I’m really moaned about when I’d just finished them and have become firm favourites. Time is such a good test. Love the Lynn Mizono dress on you. I really appreciate these architectural type designs but I’m not sure how I would look in them. I have made a couple of Drape drape designs which I love and I suppose they are similar, so perhaps I should give this type of garment a try. With the Rachel Comey dress, I’m surprised to see shoulder pads in a sleeveless summer dress design – looks a little odd to me to be able to see the end of the shoulder pads.

    1. Thanks! The Mizono dress is a quick sew so definitely worth a try if you have got the pattern, and I’ve liked all the dfferent versions I’ve seen. The Rachel Comey dress tries to hide the shoulder pad between the two layers of the dress shoulder with a gusset to take up the thickness, but I think the gusset is badly drafted so it doesn’t sit right. Even the designer original has the problem. I should just take the darn shoulder pads out.

      1. I agree, never seem a shoulder pad on a sleeveless dress before, not convinced here. But then I have such square shoulders I wouldn’t put a shoulder pad in anything….

  4. The first two look so good on you. Love it when you can get years of wear out of a make. Agree with you about the bias though, it saves so much time and fingers too.

  5. Love the dresses, especially the Burda. Would a lightweight long sleeve t-shirt make the third one more wearable?

  6. That Mizono dress is stunning! Makes me want to try it. This is a great post! I am about to edit my wardrobe, but I have a hard time getting rid of my makes. Perhaps I should think about why I don’t wear some of them.

    Saw on your last post you’d had some medical challenges. Hope you are okay and I am thinking of you.

  7. I love all these dresses, including the Rachel Comey one! I would wear it in a heartbeat. I hear what you’re saying about its wearability issues though. I think it would look great with an open blazer or cape, although the shoulder pads might be tricky… Would it be possible to take them out or attach sleeves?

    1. Yeah, I think I’m going to take the shoulder pads out. Most people who reviewed the pattern said they skipped them and they just don’t sit right on mine. A cape is an interesting idea. I’ve got some excellent Burda cape patterns knocking around 🙂

  8. I’ve been wanting to make up that Mizono dress and didn’t realize it could be that short! Will definitely prioritize it on the list now.

    I have the Comey pattern too, but am not quite sure about making it up.

  9. I love these retrospective reviews. Your black dress collection is awesome! I think it’s really interesting to see which ones have been your favorites over time and looking at the reasoning for enjoying or keeping a piece in the wardrobe.

  10. I love these wearability posts. It’s one thing to sew up a garment and model it for photos, but completely different wearing it for a day! I often put a garment on for photos, and then, after living in it for a few hours, discover a few tweaks (usually fitting) that would make it ‘perfect’.

    This is a great collection of dresses! The Comey pattern has always intrigued me, but I would never wear it anywhere. I notice the pattern garment seems to be made of a soft fluid fabric with a lot of drape. It’s very distinctive. What would it look like with a long-sleeved top underneath and tights for a fall or spring look?

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