Wearability: epic fails

I’ve finished my vintage Montana dress, but no photos as yet. Time instead for another wearability post. This one is about some absolutely epic wearability failures: things that barely left the wardrobe until the day I threw them out or passed them on. Failures are much more interesting to read about than successes, right?

First up is Vogue 1400, a Guy Laroche shirt dress made in black cotton poplin. It’s a more complicated design than it looks at first glance: there are shoulder cutouts that are not visible in this shot and the breast pockets have a complicated construction that leads to the effect of them floating on the chest with no visible stitching.

But those are details; it’s basically a very baggy, boxy shirt dress. And that’s its downfall: it’s so wide that when I lift my arms the whole thing lifts up. It also needs a belt to look good on me, so every time it pulls up I then have to tug it back down under the belt again. Way too much aggravation for what should be an easy summer dress. It might have been more wearable if I’d made a much smaller size, but somehow I doubt it. It got a few wears and was then passed on to the charity shop. At least the fabric wasn’t precious.

Next is a real blast from the past. This is Burda 106 03/2011. At the time I made this I’d been sewing only a few years and subscribing to Burda for less than a year. I made this one because I was fascinated by the egg shaped silhouette, which at the time seemed very unusual. Cocoon and egg shapes seem more mainstream in 2020, or perhaps it’s just that years of looking at sewing magazines rather than fashion magazines has retrained my eye.

I still like the shape. But my fabric choice was very bad: an online purchase that was billed as ‘linen look’ but turned out to be a very scratchy and coarsely woven polyester. I hadn’t yet realised that sewing with bad fabric is a waste of time and made it up anyway, making a complete mess of sewing the gathers at the neck along the way. I wanted this to wear to a wedding, but in the event I wore another, more comfortable, dress, and this one never made it out of the wardrobe.

I don’t think this is a bad pattern and I’ve kept my tracing. Perhaps one day I’ll tackle it again, if I ever need a new fancy dress.

And then we have this. It’s an amazing Alexander McQueen pattern; it was a free download from ShowStudio some years ago. It’s an unlined jacket with a complex pleated back.

I enjoyed making it and it looks good in the photos. But it’s very slightly too small; the pattern is one size and comes without any indication of what size it’s for so I had to guess a bit and got it wrong. And it’s a fussy item to wear. It doesn’t do anything to keep you warm or covered up, what with those wide short sleeves which aren’t connected at the underarm at all. The pleated back isn’t practical for sitting or lounging. About the only place I might wear this is to an exhibition, on a warm day.

I didn’t give this one away because it was such a lot of work to sew. It resides in a box under the bed. But I’ve not missed it at all.

I think what all three of these have in common is that they weren’t comfortable to wear, whether it was because of fit, fabric, or just the design of the garment. I’m firmly resolved only to sew with good fabric. Fit and design are a bit harder to get right up front.

30 thoughts on “Wearability: epic fails

  1. I am so sorry to hear that the cocoon dress does not feel good to wear because it looks amazing! I hope you are able to make it again, one day, because it is stunning…

  2. You always sew such interesting patterns, however as noted; some are not really practical or comfortable. Like you I agree sewing with quality fabrics is the only way to go. When beginning sewists are shocked at how expensive most of my fabrics are I remind them that my time is worth it! Thanks for your share of failures.

  3. You’ve raised some central salient issues here for the sewist – wearability is often not at the top of our list when we’re first dashing to our sewing hobby! Interesting, challenging, designer, original are goals that come to mind 🙂 and not expensive if possible! As we go along the path of creating we soon come to the conclusions you describe in this article so well – wearability, quality fabric, and comfortable zoom to the top of our priority list which will inevitably mean a trip to the charity shops, early garments in hand 🙂

  4. I have that Alexander McQueen pattern – just to have it – will probably never sew it because of the sizing issue you mentioned. But it’s pretty to look at. Thanks for this post – I am also a warts-and-all kind of sewist and I think we learn as much, if not more, from things that don’t work out.

  5. I agree that sewing with subpar fabric will only bring disappointment. That said I do sometimes use fabric I get at the charity shop where I volunteer to try out a pattern before I use the really good stuff. I’m lucky that I get to measure and price fabric so I get first dibs on them. I have actually found some good buys. The Alexander McQueen one is so interesting.

  6. These are all such interesting design, and such a shame they didn’t work out. It’s always interesting to hear about makes once they have been in the wardrobe a while, there is so much “I sewed it and it looks great in the photos” out there. I wonder with the Guy Laroche dress what would make it work – I have a very baggy top that I wear with a belt, but I don’t mind its billowing and being so wide that it moves the whole lot when I raise my arm. The fabric isn’t bulky, so if it rides up it stays up. Clearly though that drapey fabric won’t work with the pockets.

  7. The Vogue one looks huge on you, at least in the bodice. Maybe underarm gussets would fix the pulling up when raising your arms. But those pockets… how about I just say not doing you any favors and leave it at that? You DO look good in the Burda dress, both color and style, too bad about the nasty feeling fabric. I have the McQueen pattern, have never attempted it as I doubt it anywhere near the size I need. I wonder – since you like the jacket even though it’s not really wearable but you had a good time sewing it and do look good in it, is there a way to fold and frame it so you can at least admire your work instead of hidden away in a box?

    1. Ha ha yeah, I am not totally convinced by the breast pockets. The original was not bra friendly with a very deep front and back neckline which I raised in my version, and my theory is that the pockets are there to provide some much needed coverage.

  8. I love the way the Burda dress looks on you, but I also totally understand how sewing fails can happen from poor fabric choices. And the McQueen pattern also looks super cool, but I can totally see how it might be sort of impractical. I think that, while I haven’t been sewing as much the past few years, I’m really coming to appreciate how all of the stuff I wanted to make when I first started sewing was so wild and crazy and how I would never really want to wear it now. It’s been an interesting process in refining styles and tastes. But comfy fabrics and more practical designs are way more of interest to me than when I started. I think it’s good because it’s all part of the learning process.

    1. Definitely. Although it doesn’t mean having to give up the spectacular styles completely which is nice. I think sewing has enabled me to do a lot of experimentation with clothes that I’d never have managed buying things at retail.

  9. I still love things that are a bit out there and do fancy having a go at the McQueen jacket. I’m much more discerning about fabric these days. Even well made stuff in a crappy fabric doesn’t last long. I find I make lots of things to wear at work, which forces a certain restraint, though not too much as an art teacher I can get away with more than most. I love the cut of the Burda dress. I’d love something in that style.

    1. I was looking at the ages of the stuff in my wardrobe recently, working out which ones were from before I had my kid (three now) and was quite surprised by how little has survived from that era, even though I think of myself as keeping clothes for a long time. It’s certainly great to have a job where you have freedom to wear more interesting clothes!

  10. I have in mind to make the Alexander McQueen jacket for a long time – and the only thing stopping me was that it was a fancy piece and I would have few occasions to wear it. good to know sizing is a bit small. The trickiest part of home sewing (for me) is that most sews are one-offs so its a continuous learning curve, even remaking a favourite pattern in a different fabric will give different results (currently finding that on my current sew) – really like your other makes – pity the laroche dress isnt great to wear as the sillouette is fab, and I think it could be worth making to adapt the shoulders and sleeves and possibly changing fit om waist down ?

    1. So true! One thing about the McQueen jacket is that I think it could be sized up to a certain extent by adding to the side seams without having to touch the pleating.

      I still have the Guy Laroche pattern – it might make an interesting top!

  11. This was an very interesting post! First of all, you look great in all of these garments. They really look attractive and flattering on you. I’m also imagining that they are very well constructed and that your sewing is perfect. The wearability issue is vital, isn’t it? We aren’t standing still and posing in the garments that we make. Even though I’m pretty good at predicting what a pattern will look like on me, I can’t get around the fact that sometimes they just don’t feel right and move in the way that I want them too. Great sewing, good patterns, and beautiful fabirc won’t mean anything if it doesn’t feel good.

  12. It’s very enlightening to actually work out why we don’t wear some of our makes – and hopefully prevent wasting time another garments that don’t get worn. The Birds dress looks great even if it is a bad fabric.
    I made the McQueen jacket for my daughter (mainly because I wanted to make it) and have be at asked if she wears it! I had thoughts of making one for myself but I’m still dithering about that.

  13. Yay for another wearability post! I love these, and thanks for posting about the fails. I agree with you about the quality of fabric: if it’s not lovely, I won’t buy it or sew it. That said, the few pieces of (mostly) 100% polyester fabric I own that I’ve sewn up are garments that I actually wear a lot for some reason or other.

    I love the Burda dress on you. I do hope you have an opportunity to make it again – perhaps in a lovely silk crepe! It would be a classic keeper, imho.

    I, too, have that McQueen pattern (and the new ridiculous-sleeved Little House on the Prairie dress recently added to that website for download), and would love to make it up, but for DD1, who is sample-size. I love that it is in a box under your bed for safe-keeping.

  14. Yes I get the wearability issue. I made Vogue 1312 several years ago and it’s only been worn 2-3 times. With the huge skirt, there is so much fabric to deal with when sitting or getting in a car. It’s one of those dresses that is worn and shown to best effect only if standing. I still have it.

    1. Oh I like that pattern! I hadn’t thought about the size of the skirt though. Looks like it’s a tablecloth style? Very elegant but yeah, loads of fabric.

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