Vogue 1376 vintage Montana dress modelled pictures

So here it is at last, my vintage 80s dress. It seems odd to think of 80s patterns as vintage, given I remember the decade quite well. But at the time I definitely didn’t appreciate fashion and had never heard of Claude Montana.

The pattern is Vogue 1376 from 1984. I’m almost certain the original designer dress is the one in this advert. I did consider constructing a blue cardboard triangle to put on my head but you’ll be pleased to hear sanity prevailed. My styling efforts are limited to 80s style stripy blusher.

This dress is all about the enormous shoulders. The bodice front and back are only joined together from the waist down in order to achieve that very triangular shape. Decency is maintained by side insets placed in the gap and topstitched in place. One of the insets is visible in this side view. What you can’t see here are the two shoulder pads each side required to support the shape.

Here’s a back view. I added quite a bit to the length. I always add 5cm to the bodice on Vogue but on this one I added another 3cm to the skirt. I’m very happy with where the hem has ended up. For once I’ve managed to hit the magic length which covers the knee but doesn’t make my legs look oddly proportioned. I’m wearing ridiculous heels here for photographic purposes but I think this would look OK with flats. I browsed through a lot of YouTube videos of Montana fashion shows while identifying this pattern, and was surprised by how low and practical many of the shoes were. Not how I remember 80s style. Is it just that heels got even higher later on? I remember fashion suddenly declaring that flats were OK after all at some time in the second half of the 90s, and how refreshing it was to be able to find shoes that were both attractive and practical.

There are a lot of details on the back: there’s a button closure, pleats, and a belt. On the original design the belt appears to be patent leather, but I stuck with self fabric and a lot of interfacing for mine. Incidentally the fabric is gaberchino from Empress Mills. I think this design needs something not too heavy, but with a bit of body to it.

The front has the amazing pocket flanges which echo the triangular shoulder shape and the overall outline. The whole thing is very thoughtfully designed.

Surprisingly it’s not all that close fitting, as you can see here. I made my usual size and I seem to have more ease than on the original. I don’t think I’d want it any tighter though.

I’m pleased with this, although who knows how much I’ll get to wear it in the near future. It was a lot of fun to make anyway.

Utterly impractical sewing

Remember this? It’s a old Vogue designer pattern I bought earlier in the year because it is everything I love about the 80s.

It hasn’t just been sitting in my pattern collection; I am actually making it up. It’s been quite a journey so far and it’s not done yet. But I have finally got it to the point where it looks like a dress, so I thought I’d post some progress pictures.

The pattern envelope does not lie. The shoulders are seriously wide. Consequently the waist looks tiny. It hasn’t got shoulder pads in yet either, so those shoulders are going to be even bigger when it’s done.

The hip pocket flaps form amazing sticky out fins when the dress is on a body or dress form. My other half said it reminded him of a 50s Cadillac. Underneath them are welt pockets.

The fabric is gaberchino. It needs to be something that is drapey enough for the pleats in the bodice back but has enough body to make the more structured details. I’ve used a lot of interfacing to beef it up in places.

Here’s a better view of the shoulder and neck. The pins are holding the armscye facing in place as I haven’t topstitched it yet.

And here is the back; there is a lot going on there. There are going to be buttons and button holes on the upper back bands and at the collar and the back half-belt. My dress form has a much shorter waist than I do so it won’t be quite so blousy on me.

I still need to add insets under the arms, do a ton of topstitching, put the shoulder pads in, and make all those buttonholes. Oh and hem it, too. There is loads of work in this and that’s without making any effort to make the insides look nice – the pattern doesn’t call for anything special there so it’s all overlocked seam allowances. It’s a wonderful pattern though; beautifully drafted and full of interesting details. It’s been a lot of fun to sew.

I’m coming to the conclusion that the end result is going to be less wearable than I’d originally thought, what with the high neck and the very narrow skirt. But it will be a spectacular dress for going out somewhere fancy in, if we ever get to do that again. And when I finish it I will do my best to get some good photos…I’d better look up some 80s makeup inspiration.

Vogue 1466 modelled photos

Vogue 1466 jacket in black boiled wool

Here’s another project I finished during lockdown and didn’t get modelled photographs of until now. This is the jacket from out-of-print Vogue 1466, a Donna Karan design. Boringly I made it in the same colour as the designer original, although I think the Donna Karan fabric is woven (wool melton) and mine is a stable knit (boiled wool). Here’s the pattern envelope photo.

Vogue 1466 envelope photo
Vogue 1466 envelope photo, McCalls

And my terrible photo of the line art from the back of the envelope, because by the time I went looking for that the pattern had long since vanished from the McCalls site.

Photo of Vogue 1466 line art from back of envelope
Vogue 1466 line art from back of envelope, McCalls, my photo

I made this as a warm layer for wearing at work, because the room I work in at home is much colder than the rest of the house.

The back is very plain indeed.

But there’s all sorts going on at the front between the asymmetric closure, the pockets, and the collar tab. The pockets should be double welts not single but I couldn’t make it work with my very thick fabric.

I had to add an extra snap to the front to get it to not gape at the waist if I don’t stand up perfectly straight. The model on the pattern envelope is wearing a belt so doesn’t have that problem and all the runway pictures I could find had belts too. I tried mine with a belt but prefer it like this because there is a ton of ease at the waist and it looks a bit bulky when pulled in.

I noticed Donna Karan did some variations on this style with various bits of embellishment on the sleeves which looked very nice, but definitely not everyday wear.

I doubt this is going to get worn much until the weather cools down but I think I’ll be very glad of it in the autumn. I keep reading about how we’re all dressing super casually now thanks to coronavirus but it doesn’t seem to be true for me. I like putting an outfit together even if no one is going to see it other than my husband and son. On which note, thanks again to my husband for taking the pictures and managing to capture detail in black boiled wool…not easy. Although the high quality pictures did make me realise just how tired the skirt I’m wearing here has become (also Vogue, 8956 but out of print so no link). I’ve carefully edited out the shots where the sad saggy hem is visible. Going to have to either fix that one or remake it this year.

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.

Vogue 1466 high necked Donna Karan jacket

A black wool jacket (Vogue 1466) with a high neckline lies on the floor

I have finished making the jacket from Vogue 1466, an out of print Donna Karan design. I’ve been working on this since the start of lockdown; it’s been a slog. It was actually done a week or two back, when the UK was going through an incredible heatwave. Not the best time to be finishing a heavy boiled wool jacket. I was so fed up of it after trying it on multiple times in the blazing heat that after the last snap was sewn I left it sitting on the dressform and didn’t even take photographs. The weather has cooled down since then. In fact the last few days have been rainy so I still haven’t got any modelled photographs but I did try it on and take some detail shots.

Here’s the technical drawing. The unusual thing about this design is the high collar with the tab. The tab is a separate piece held on by snaps.

Technical drawing of a jacket with a high neck and asymmetric closure(Vogue 1466)

Closeup of the collar. I was concerned this might not be comfortable to wear in practice but so far it has been all right. I originally chose this pattern because I’m often in need of warm layers to wear indoors and I fancied something a bit smarter than a sweater. I don’t feel comfortable in most cardigans – don’t ask me why – and definitely not in traditional tailored jackets. This one is unlined and made in a stretchy boiled wool, which makes it a lot easier to wear.

A closeup of the necline of a high necked black wool jacket (Vogue 1466)

The insides of this are all finished with bias binding on the seams. It took forever, and I can’t say it’s the most even binding the world has ever seen. I almost wished for lining, but the wool is so thick and warm that adding another layer would have made this like a winter coat.

The inside of an unlined jacket with bound seams

The shoulder pads are just visible here. They’re the largest ones I had in stash – this jacket really needs them.

The inside of an unlined jacket (Vogue 1466) showing bound seams and covered shoulder pads

After all the shenanigans involved in finishing the welt pockets with French seams, they end up barely visible. Nice and roomy though.

I’m looking forward to wearing this now. Hopefully I’ll get some pictures of it on a body soon.

The inside of an unlined jacket (Vigue 1466) showing front facing and pocket bag

And now for something a little different

Burda 121 04 2020

Continuing with the blogging about frivolous sewing, because I need a break from thinking about the real world. This unusual t-shirt design is from the April 2020 Burda. It’s style 121 which is the Trend pattern for the month. It reminds me of various Vivienne Westwood designs, and also some of the Drape Drape patterns. Here’s the technical drawing.

Burda 121 04 2020

The pattern is unusual in that there is only one pattern piece. It is cut twice, but with both pieces oriented the same way up, not mirrored as pattern pieces are normally cut. Here is the pattern piece. I’ve made my usual length additions so it’s not quite shaped like Burda’s.

The model photo made me think of a piece of fabric that’s been lurking in my stash for a long time. It’s a lightweight single knit with wide grey and black stripes, and a silver glitter coating over that on the right side which makes it look like dark and light silver stripes. I bought it on Goldhawk Road many years ago and foolishly only got 1.5m. Even though it was a generous cut that worked out more like 1.8m I’ve never found anything to do with it – if I’d bought a little bit more I would have had loads of options. The Burda pattern calls for 2.1m but that is for a with-nap layout. By rotating the pattern piece 180 degrees before cutting the second copy I was able to get it out of the shorter length.

I know in general one should always use a with-nap layout for knits, especially ones with a sheen, but I think this pattern is busy enough that any difference between front and back will be lost in the noise.

Black ruched dress: Burda 110 08/2017

Black is so difficult to photograph! This is my version of Burda 110 08/2017 (the link is to the Russian Burda site because of the recent changes on the US site). Hopefully you can see the details, because this dress has a lot going on. Gathering, pleating, buttons, and believe it or not there are pockets too, hidden in the skirt front pleats. Those aren’t part of the original pattern. They are horizontal inseam pockets inserted in an additional seam added by slashing the skirt front pattern piece along the inside fold of one of the pleats. Once the skirt is made up the pleat folds itself over the top of the pocket and hides the opening.

Here’s Burda’s version. Beautiful, but I bet they had to photograph it carefully. The fabric has to be lightweight and very elastic to work for this design, and when it’s white as well there must be huge potential for accidentally revealing more than intended. I added an underlining to the skirt in my version to get better coverage, and if I ever make it again I’ll do the same with the bodice as well. To reduce bulk at the seams I made separate underlining pattern pieces from a basic pencil skirt shape without any details, and then mounted the gathered and pleated fronts and backs onto them.

Burda 110 08/2017 model photo. A woman in a white dress sits beside a swimming pool

You can see in this back view that my slip is showing through at the shoulders. A second layer would probably have helped with that. The fabric is a lightweight single knit viscose/elastane jersey from Croft Mill. At the time of writing it’s still available. With my pattern alterations I used pretty much every scrap of three metres; I was worried I wasn’t going to be able to cut the whole thing. If I remake this I’ll buy a bit more fabric next time so I can underline the bodice too.

This is a Tall pattern, and the design is certainly proportioned accordingly, with the long slim skirt and cuffs. I found the cuffs came out a little baggy on me and would narrow them slightly another time. I don’t think I have unusually thin wrists so that’s worth watching out for if you’re making this.

What’s slightly surprising about the design is that they have you put in a really long zip, from the neck point right down to the hips. This is somewhat tricky to do: the fabric isn’t particularly stable to start with and then there’s the thick gathered section at the centre back skirt seam to negotiate. The zip isn’t necessary for getting the dress waist over your hips, because the waist’s elasticated anyway and the fabric, as previously mentioned, has to be very stretchy. I can get the dress on without undoing the zip or buttons at all. Admittedly it messes up my hair, but if that’s a consideration then a shorter zip to centre back would solve that and be a lot easier to install.

I like the button detail at the back of the neck. They’re secured with thread loops which are oddly satisfying to make. Pleased with the buttons too; they’re just plastic but they are exactly right for this dress.

This has turned out to be a surprisingly wearable dress. The stretchy fabric means the long pencil skirt isn’t as restricting as it looks, and it’s quite warm. The pockets haven’t worked as well as I’d hoped; the fabric is too light to support much weight so anything like a phone tends to distort the skirt front. I think that could be reduced by adding interfacing, or maybe extending the back pocket into a stay that could be caught in the waist seam. I cheated for the photos and didn’t put anything in the pockets.

I do think it needs a belt to make it look finished, and it needs to be leather (or fake leather) rather than fabric. Or maybe I should add more length to the bodice to make it blouse out and hide the waist seam.

I’m kind of tempted to make this again. White would look great but I don’t have any shoes that would go with it so I’d never wear it. Maybe beige or taupe?

Vogue 1501

This is going to be a tricky dress to write a blog post about because I made it right at the end of last summer and have forgotten some of the details. As soon as I finished it the weather turned cold, and so I didn’t wear it last year at all. Now summer is back it’s finally having its moment.

The pattern is Vogue 1501, a Rachel Comey design. It’s got some beautiful and unusual details. The bodice is only attached to the skirt for a short distance along the front, floating free elsewhere, and there are thickly padded shoulders.

The pattern is written to produce a neatly finished inside without a single exposed seam. What it is missing is any reasonable way to hang up the finished dress in a wardrobe. A couple of long ribbon loops sewn into the waistband at the side seams would have been a useful addition! As it is I have to hang it using a skirt hanger connected below a regular hanger with a bit of string.

Here you can see the inside of the skirt and the waistband with all the edges either bound or sewed with french seams. It’s beautiful but it took forever.

I think I made my usual length additions on the bodice. If I was making this again I would take a little of the extra length out because the pleats in the bodice tend to collapse. I notice the skirt is a smidge shorter on me than the model which I find is a more flattering look, but I can’t now recall how I got to that point. I do remember getting the skirt pattern piece upside down more than once while sewing though; all the pleats mean it is very wide at the top.

The back has a nice little keyhole opening which adds some interest but mine’s not hanging quite right on the body. The keyhole is slashed into the pattern piece. It looks to me that I needed to make the button loop longer to account for the lost width from the allowances at the keyhole edges. Apart from that little annoyance I really like the back view. The open back is airy without showing lots of skin.

Now let’s talk about the shoulders. I read a lot of reviews of this pattern before making it up and every one skipped the padded shoulders. The pattern has you insert a gusset into the outer shoulder shell/facing seam to make space for a pad that’s supposed to be 2cm thick. I decided to give it a go but I’m not 100% happy with the results and I think the pattern could be improved to give a better finish. The gusset as drafted is symmetrical. It’s a long thin oval with a point at each end: the same shape as a marquise gem. But a shoulder pad has a curve in it to shape over the shoulder, so the gusset should be a crescent shape: concave on the side closest to the shoulder. The facing’s armscye should be made slightly shorter than the shell armscye to match the shorter length of the concave edge. If you make it up as drafted you inevitably end up with wrinkles on the underside of the shoulder where there is too much fabric trying to fit into too little space. They aren’t very visible in these pictures (hooray for black fabric, it hides a multitude of problems) but I assure you they’re there and you can also see them in Vogue’s model photos if you zoom in, so it’s a problem with the original designer dress and not the adaptation to a home sewing pattern.

Speaking of fabric, this is made from a poly crepe I got from Barry’s Fabrics in Birmingham last summer. It was great value and I’m very happy with it; it drapes beautifully and feels nice to wear. It was a little tricky to make the narrow hems for the back bodice edge in this fabric though. A silk or cupro twill would be absolutely perfect for this pattern.

Despite all the niggles this is a good summer dress for me – not too fluffy and very wearable. I can’t see me making another one soon but I’ll hang onto the pattern just in case. It would look amazing in white linen.

Thanks to my husband for the pictures.

Burda 101B 06/2016

Marmite top: Burda 101B 06/2016

Burda 101B 06/2016

Don’t laugh, but this simple creation was originally inspired by an awesome Rei Kawakubo sweater from the 1980s. I’d post a picture but I haven’t been able to find one that’s definitely legal to use on a blog. I encourage you to click the link to see it! Anyway it’s black, knitted, very rectangular in shape, and has panels that weave over and under each other. I considered trying to knit something similar before sanity prevailed and I realised that what I actually wanted was a boxy black knit top with some interesting texture and no complicated knitting was required.

I came across this unusual sweater knit from Empress Mills while browsing their website. It’s loosely knitted in a wide rib pattern. And that seemed to go quite nicely with Burda 101B 06/2016, a simple kimono sleeved top designed to show off stripes.

Burda 101B 06/2016 garment photo

Burda’s stripe placement is fine for striped fabric but mine has raised ribs which I think would look peculiar running parallel to the hem, so I put the horizontal ribs on the top half and the vertical ones on the bottom. Cutting it out was a challenge. I knew it would be obvious if the ribs weren’t perfectly aligned so I made full sized pattern pieces and cut it single layer instead of on the fold. That took up a lot of paper and space.

I went all the the place with sizing. The top half is cut in the largest size the pattern came in, and the lower body in my usual size. This was in order to get a bit more depth over the bust because on all the model photos the horizontal seam seems to be too high. I also didn’t add any length to the lower body when normally I would need at least 5cm. I wanted this to be fairly cropped. I wish I’d straightened the side seam. This is one of those patterns that can be a dress or a top depending on where you hem it, and so it’s got a bit of waist shaping for the dress version that the top doesn’t need.

Burda 101B 06/2016

The original pattern has a turned and stitched edge at the neckline but I made deep facings and blind hemmed them to the body to make sure they stay put.

I was really pleased with it when I finished it and put it on with my black asymmetric wool skirt. The next morning I put it on with my black wool trousers and hated it. I switched to my black jeans and loved it again. The black jeans are what I’m wearing in these photos.

Burda 101B 06/2016
Burda 128 10/2010

Burda 128 10/2010 modelled pictures

Burda 128 10/2010 black sateen

Here is my latest attempt at a practical winter dress, Burda 128 10/2010. I’m not saying it’s a bad pattern: it’s certainly not bland or boring. But it’s not the easiest thing to wear.

I almost never make toiles and there are a few fit issues. I could have done with a bit more room at the hips and there’s something a bit off with the hem at the back – but I’m going to have to lengthen it anyway so that can be fixed at that point.

Burda 128 10/2010

Side view, although it’s very difficult to see any detail. The bust point is a bit high for me. Burda doesn’t mark that on magazine patterns.

I wore it to work today (with very thick tights!) and it was ok, but definitely only suitable for a day spent mostly behind a desk.

I might tackle lengthening it this weekend. And then after that I have several much more colourful projects (for other people) lined up!

Thanks to my husband for the photos.