I’ve been banging on about this dress for weeks but this is the last post about it, I promise. It’s an old Vogue pattern from 1985, number 1652 by Claude Montana.
My version is made in black satin-backed crepe. Here’s a quick reminder of what it looks like.
It turned out to be one of the most difficult projects I’ve done in a while. The style looks simple – raglan sleeves, wrap front, hood, a few pleats. But the the pleats and the edge finishes are very fiddly and there are also some clever tucks at the neck that are sewn differently on each side of the dress. The instructions for those are technically correct. The facings on the inside of the dress have the ‘right side’ of the contrast fabric visible. And as it’s ‘contrast fabric’ not ‘lining fabric’, the pattern diagrams use the standard ‘right side of main fabric’ colour for all diagrams of the tucks whether they’re shown from the inside or the outside the dress, rendering the two sides completely indistinguishable. Like I said, it’s technically correct. And of course I sewed the right-hand side tucks inside out the first time because I interpreted the diagram wrong. As soon as I put the dress on it was clear they were wrong though, and it was easy to fix.
And now for some pictures of the details.
The pleats are made over the seams in the hood and sleeves and then held in place by stitching in the ditch. I didn’t think it through and didn’t finish my seam allowances before making the pleats, and afterwards it’s almost impossible to do. Doesn’t matter on the hood, because it is lined, but the sleeves aren’t. This picture also shows the top-stitching on the raglan sleeve seams, which seems to be there purely to hold the neck facing down. At least, it looks exactly like the sort of thing I often do to tame an unruly facing, only I stitch in the ditch to try to hide it rather than making it a feature. I’d always assumed this was a lazy shortcut that could be avoided if I pressed the facings a bit better, but here it is on a serious designer garment so I’m feeling pleasingly vindicated now.
The centre back and side seams are flat felled to give a nice clean interior finish. The hems are tiny, no fun at all to sew in bouncy polyester crepe. I presume this finish matches the one on the original garment, but I’ve reason to think that was made in wool doubleknit so a narrow hem wouldn’t be an easy option there either. Mysterious. If I ever make this again I might increase the hem allowance.
The sleeves are finished with real opening cuffs which is a nice touch. They’re very skinny though, or else I have big hands.
Another couple of unusual features below: the velcro closure on the front and the method of joining the facings to the body. The facings are stitched to the body wrong sides together, then the facing edges are are trimmed back close to the stitch line and the outer layer turned in to make a narrow hem over the top of the facing. This was a very slow, fiddly process involving lots of hand basting. It’s completely impossible to turn the hem in neatly where the edge has a concave curve, and the pattern provides a helpful extra piece to sew on along that section to form the hem instead. It’s just about visible in the picture. They call it a ‘gusset’, which I always thought of as something that goes into an armscye or crotch seam. Yes it’s wonky. This is the best I could do after much unpicking and retrying, and it’s not very visible when worn.
Sarah Webb (@sarahjw70 on Instagram) sensibly suggested attaching the facings the conventional way and then top-stitching instead. I wish I had followed her advice! The finish above makes for a flat and well-behaved edge with an attractive border of the outside fabric on the contrast side, but it took a whole evening and I think the normal way would be quite acceptable, especially if the inside isn’t a dramatically contrasting colour.
Here’s a couple of photos of the inside at the top. There’s a little button there for a thread loop on the top corner of the underneath of the wrap to hook onto, so there’s no danger of the wrap front revealing anything it shouldn’t at the top.
After a day of wear I got annoyed by the lapel of the outer front flapping about when the hood was down, so added a tiny hook and eye on the other side to hold that in place too. That front isn’t shifting anywhere now.
And here’s the inside of those amazing sleeves. Thick shoulder pads, and a bit of wadding tacked to my shamefully unfinished seams to help the sleeves keep their very curved shape.
And that’s it. I did wear it to work one day, and no one noticed! Not sure if that means it’s less out there than I thought or they were all being very polite. Anyway it’s wearable for days when all I’m doing is sitting at a desk. It needs a wide elastic belt to make it sit right with this slippery fabric – I tried with a webbing belt and it slid everywhere. And it’s very warm.
My next project is a very plain Burda sweater with only four pattern pieces that I’ve made before. It’ll be a nice change.