Ultimate 80s

Last week took a rather unexpected turn and I ended up first in A and E and then having surgery. I’m home now and feel a lot better – thank you NHS! And I bought a sewing pattern to cheer myself up so I thought I’d share it because this has got to be the ultimate 80s power dress. It’s Vogue 1376, I think from 1984. The design is by Claude Montana.

Vogue 1376 envelope photo

I’m pretty sure it’s the dress from this magazine ad.

Ad from Vogue (image from Pinterest)

I even found a YouTube video of the Montana 1984 spring/summer show with several models all wearing the same dress.

Here are the line drawings.

Vogue 1376 view A line drawing
Vogue 1376 view B line drawing

I love the pockets. They’re quite fancy welt pockets made using a clever technique that was new to me. The pocket bag is sewn on to the pocket opening, turned through, and then folded up and back to form the welt. There is no separate welt piece so it’s much less faff. And then that triangular flap gets sewn on top, hiding the beautiful welt. Or the not so beautiful welt if it goes wrong.

The pattern doesn’t have a photo of the dress back which is a shame as there’s a lot of interesting detail there. The video shows that the back belt is made of a different fabric which looks like leather. I think I’d stick to self fabric though.

The shoulder pads are immense. The pattern says 2.5cm thick. I think it would take two sets of modern ones to get that height. It amused me to see that at the time Vogue offered a shoulder pad pattern which the envelope suggests as an alternative to buying pre-made pads.

Although it’s obviously very much of its time I think there is a wearable dress in here. Just need to find the right fabric.

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
A woman wearing a grey top and silver skirt sits in a chair

Speedy sewing: Burda 106b 06/2011

A woman wearing a grey top Burda 106b 06/2011 stands in front of a window

My last project took six weeks, and isn’t blogged yet; I’m sick of the sight of it. This little top took about three hours, which was a very refreshing change. It’s Burda 106b 06/2011. Four pattern pieces: front, back, and facings, and uses less than a metre of fabric. There is also a dress version, 107 06/2011, which uses lengthened versions of the same pattern pieces.

A woman wearing a grey top Burda 106b 06/2011 stands with her back to the viewer

The fabric is tencel twill from Merchant and Mills, left over from a dress I made last year. It’s very drapey and cool to wear. I didn’t think the facings would stay put in the twill, so I added some random lightweight stretch iron-on interfacing I had lying around to them. The pattern doesn’t call for any interfacing.

The shape is mostly boxy but there are small bust darts, which I should have lowered a little. The armscye is almost a straight line. I’ve lengthened the pattern by my usual 5cm to allow for my long back, and I’m very happy with where the hem has ended up.

A woman wearinf a grey top Burda 106b 06/2011 stands side on

There are slits at the hem. I mitered the corners instead of just turning the hem up as it gives a much nicer finish.

A close up view of Burda 106b 06/2011 hem showing topstitching and side slits

I’m hoping this will be a real wardrobe workhorse as it’s so simple and neutral. I’m wearing it with my silver Vogue 1247 skirt here. Many thanks to my husband both for the photos and the quarantine haircut. Feels very good to have it off my neck.

A woman wearing a grey top Burda 106b 06/2011 and silver skirt Vogue 1247 sits in a chair

Inseam pockets

Pockets are essential for me these days. Inseam pockets are the kind I use the most but it’s always bothered me how most patterns instruct you to sew them. Generally it goes: sew a pocket piece right sides together to each of the body front and back pieces, press them outwards, lay the front on the back and sew up the side seam of the garment making a detour around the edges of the pocket bag. It’s simple to construct but I’ve always found it a pain in the neck to finish the seam edges neatly afterwards. And if I finish the pocket edges before sewing the pocket I have to overlock around all four pocket pieces individually and that’s really tedious. If you look at inseam pockets in RTW they aren’t constructed like that.

Recently I’ve been using a method I came across in Burda instead. It’s harder to explain but I think it gives a nicer finish and it also means you can put a zip alongside the pocket or make French seams fairly easily. I keep forgetting the steps so I took some photos and am writing it all down here so I can refer to it later.

Sew the front pocket piece right sides together with the front dress piece. Start sewing at the raw edges of the fabric level with one end of the pocket opening. Sew inwards at right angles to the raw edge until you get to the side seam seam line. Pivot, sew along the seam line, and at the end of the opening pivot again and sew out to the raw edge. The stitching should look like three sides of a rectangle with the fabric edge being the fourth side. Clip into the corners of the rectangle.

Close up shot of a clipped into corner.

Turn the pocket to the inside and press. Here’s what it looks like from the wrong side of the dress.

And here’s the right side.

Finish the seam that was just sewn. In this picture the little triangular flaps you get from clipping into the corners are just about visible at the two ends of the seam. I’ll come back to those in a minute. This picture also shows a strip of interfacing. I always fuse a bit along the pocket opening edge on the dress front piece.

Understitch the seam.

Now place the back pocket piece over the front one, right sides together. The wrong side of the back pocket piece will be facing up. Sew just the pocket pieces together around their edges. At the two ends catch in the folded back triangles from the clipped corners.

Finish the edges of the pockets. This can be done by whizzing them through an overlocker.

From the right side it now looks like this.

Baste the pocket bag to the dress seam allowance above and below the opening.

Now the side seams can be constructed as normal, in theory as if the pocket wasn’t there, and finished however one likes.

In practice it’s possible to accidentally sew the pocket shut if you don’t sew very accurately. I find it helps to rub a piece of chalk over the back of the pocket opening on the wrong side of the dress front before sewing. It gives a very clear outline of the pocket edges so I know where to aim.

After I made the samples above I sewed a Vogue designer pattern which has yet another method for doing the inseam pockets, where the pocket bag ends up French seamed and the side seam is bound. I didn’t love the method but it’s a useful variant to add to the toolbox. I’d be interested to know about other methods too.

Wearability: summer dresses

I keep meaning to write more wearability posts. I blog about garments I’ve made when they’re new, but rarely come back to record how they proved in the long term. The UK has just had the hottest May on record, so this post covers three different summer dresses that I’ve been wearing a lot recently.

I’ve chosen this group of three because they’re the same colour and they’re made from very similar fabrics, allowing me to concentrate on the differences in the patterns.

The oldest of the three is a Style Arc Toni I made in 2018. My original blog post is here. I’ve made the pattern a few times but this one is my favourite version. The dress is just below knee length (shortened from the original pattern length). It’s sleeveless but has dropped shoulders that provide a lot of coverage. The main features are the side drapes and the high collar which runs into a deep and narrow v neck. There are pockets hidden in the side drapes.

A woman in a garden wearing a white sleeveless dress with draped sides and a high collar

This is an easy dress to style. I’ve been wearing it with trainers or flipflops and no accessories other than my chunky titanium bracelet.

It’s great for very hot weather. It hangs from the shoulders and otherwise doesn’t touch the body. The high collar and dropped shoulders provide a lot of sun protection and it still looks fairly smart. What I’ve never managed is to make it work on cooler days; it looks awkward with a long sleeved layer underneath and very peculiar with tights or leggings. Oddly my dark grey version of this dress doesn’t have the same problem.

The one thing I don’t like about this dress is the armscye. It’s not got any shaping; you just stop sewing the side seam at a certain point and put your arm through the resulting gap. I normally sew the side seam up higher than the pattern says to, but even so there is a risk of bra band exposure because the dress is so unfitted. And the end of the side seam is a weak point that takes a lot of stress; I’ve had a couple of my Tonis tear there. It ought to be possible to adjust the pattern to improve this. I shall have a try next time I make it.

The next one is McCalls 7727, a dramatic fabric hog of a shirt dress. Original blog post here. The top half is a fairly standard shirt dress with a yoke, concealed button placket, long sleeves, princess seams, and a stand collar. The unusual feature here is the enormous circle skirt with a high-low hem. The back of the skirt is almost floor length. There are pockets in the side seams.

A woman stands in a garden wearing a white dress with long sleeves and a wide skirt

I usually wear this one with the belt from the photo above and trainers.

This looks like it ought to be a lot of work to wear. The length can certainly be a nuisance: it drags on stairs and sometimes catches on the backs of my shoes. And I always wear the dress with a half slip in case a sudden gust of wind makes the skirt fly up. It’s certainly not for days when you want to fly under the radar. However despite all that it always puts a smile on my face when I put it on. I made this thinking I probably wouldn’t wear it all that much but found it is a regular pick for hot days. I occasionally think about making a version in black poplin too, although the prospect of cutting out those enormous panels has meant I’ve not done it yet.

When I make this again I’ll make the skirt a tiny bit shorter at the back and longer at the front. I’ll also line the yokes and use flat felled seams on the sleeves so when I roll them up there aren’t overlocked seam allowances showing.

The last one of the three, Burda 116 9/2014, is much more recent. I made it in January this year. Original blog post here.

It has long sleeves ending in elasticated bands, a deep shirttail hem, a drawstring waist, and a lot of pockets. The collar is unusual. It’s a band collar but ends before the button placket. The placket itself is concealed and runs to just above the waist.

This one is the least successful of the three. It’s comfortable but I’ve yet to find a way to style it really successfully. The original version in Burda was worn as a dress with bare legs and the top two buttons undone, carefully photographed. In practice that means it’s open almost to the waist and requires a concealing layer underneath, so no good for very hot days. One button undone looks wrong with the unusual collar. All done up is definitely a Look and needs a jacket over the top. OK if in the mood but not easy to wear.

Worn over trousers it tends to look like a protective smock and not a dress. The best thing I’ve found to put with it for cooler weather is my black fake leather leggings. I should have made the dress in black instead of white as it would have been much more versatile. It’s saving grace is the elasticated cuffs – a detail I am going to steal for other projects.

Three white dresses is enough for my wardrobe. When they wear out I’ll definitely remake the white Toni, and probably the McCalls. The Burda won’t get remade, but I’m not throwing it out right now either.

French seamed single welt pocket

Here’s how the french seamed welt pockets on my current project are constructed, with bonus paper models of the process. I suspect it will be easier to see what’s going on with the paper than with fabric samples. I’ve used origami paper which has one white side and one coloured side. The coloured side represents the right side of the fabric, and the white side the wrong side.

This picture represents the right side of the jacket front with the opening for the pocket marked. When doing these in fabric I like to make the markings on the wrong side and line things up by poking pins through to the right side, but I know some people prefer to mark the right side of the fabric with something that can be removed without a trace, like basting in a contrasting thread.

Square of paper representing jacket front marked with welt pocket lines and grainline

Step one is to sew the welt on. It goes on the lower marking with the opening edge pointing down. The side of the welt that will be visible goes against the jacket front.

Blue paper representing jacket with a piece of brown paper representing a welt laid across the lower welt pocket mark

Then the front pocket bag gets placed over the top, right sides together, with the marks for the opening in the pocket bag aligned with the marks on the jacket front. The pocket grainline marking isn’t right on my model, just ignore that.

Blue paper representing jacket with white paper representing pocket laid over

Then slash the pocket opening through both the pocket bag and jacket front, cutting diagonally into the corners. The right side of my paper pocket piece is brown, which is why brown bits are visible around the edge of the opening. The raw edge of the welt is making the slash in the jacket front difficult to see but it is there.

Blue paper representing jacket with pocket laid over and slashed

Turn the pocket bag to the inside through the opening and press as normal. It should look like this from the front, with the welt covering the opening.

Blue paper presenting jacket with welt pocket opening slashed and turned, The brown welt is visible, covering the opening

And now the clever bit: turn the pocket and welt back to their original positions and place the back pocket bag (red paper) on top, with wrong sides of the pocket bag pieces together.

Blue paper representing jacket with white and red paper representing pocketnlaid over

Sew around the edges, trim the seam allowances close to the seam, and turn the whole pocket back through the hole. The welt points up again and covers the opening. Then sew around the pocket bag again with right sides together, completing the french seam.

Finish as normal: sew the pairs of fabric triangles at each end of the opening together, sew the ends of the welt to the jacket front, and sew the pocket bag as close as possible to the top edge of the opening, sewing through both layers of the bag and the fabric flap from where the opening was slashed, but not the jacket front.

One thing I love about sewing is seeing how things like this get put together. It reminds me of when I was at university and learning to really think in three dimensions.

Pocket samples

Welt pockets are high stakes sewing. Cutting a hole right through the middle of a pattern piece can’t be undone if it goes wrong.

The jacket I’m making has double welt pockets with very narrow welts, and my fabric is a very thick and elastic boiled wool. From the outset this seemed unlikely to be a successful combination, but I had nothing in my fabric stash that’s a suitable alternative fabric for the welts. So I tried making a sample following the method in the pattern (OOP Vogue 1465). I measured really carefully and hand basted every step. But it’s…not good. The back pocket bag isn’t sewn onto this sample – it would have been a complete waste of fabric.

Jetted pocket sample in black boiled wool

I’ve made welt pockets successfully lots of times in the past, even in boiled wool. But the combination of a particularly thick and unstable fabric and very narrow welts just isn’t working. Another complication is that for some reason the pattern includes a facing of the boiled wool which is applied to the pocket bag that attaches to the garment front, which means that there’s an extra layer of fabric to negotiate when cutting through the front.

I could make the whole thing bigger, but I think the double welts look a bit odd in the wool anyway and a single one would be better. I tried making a single welt to the same width as the pair of double ones, skipping the pocket bag facing too. Again no back pocket bag on the sample. I also haven’t hand sewn the ends of the welt down, which I’d do if this was the real thing.

Single welt pocket sample in black boiled wool

Not perfect, but a great deal better. I think the welt is a touch too narrow. I’m not making a third sample though – this is two evenings of sewing time gone already. I’ve cut my real welts a little wider and I’m going ahead with my actual jacket pieces. Wish me luck.

Vogue 1466 toile

I’m making a jacket in a thick black boiled wool. It’s special fabric and quite an involved pattern so for once I’m doing a toile to check the fit before I cut into the good stuff. Before we get into the photos of me pinned into unflattering unbleached calico with wild hair and not a smidgeon of makeup, here’s the technical drawing and model photo so you can see what I’m aiming for. It’s Vogue 1466 which is an out of print Donna Karan design, so no link I’m afraid.

I normally start one or two sizes down from my measurements in Vogue because of the large amount of ease they include, and add 5cm length between bust and waist and also 5cm to the sleeves. With this one the finished pattern measurements showed there is next to no ease at the hip so I used my true size there. Here’s the front view.

I haven’t got any shoulder pads to put in, although the pattern does need them, so I think that explains the diagonal wrinkles from shoulder to armscye seam.

There is a lot of ease in the sleeve caps and I didn’t do a great job setting them, so there are a few little tucks. In my defence, setting the sleeves in boiled wool will be a lot easier than in calico. Despite the bad sewing and the unforgiving fabric the arm mobility in this is impressively good. I can reach right over my head without problems.

I think I need a little bit more bust room, despite the printed finished garment measurements showing a large amount of ease there.

I haven’t got a good photo of the back. All the ones where I was standing straight came out blurred! Anyway you’ll have to take it from me that the back is OK. What this does show is that there is a lot of room in the waist, but I think that’s intentional.

I haven’t got an unblurry shot of the side at all, but this one is the least bad. Again looks like I need a full bust adjustment and shoulder pads.

This one shows the collar tab slightly better. Mine seems larger than the technical drawing but similar to the model photo. The collar is comfortable to wear, which is the main thing.

So, some small pattern tweaks and then on to figuring out how I’m going to manage those jetted pockets in ultra thick boiled wool.

Pattern prep: Vogue 1466

This is my next sewing project: the jacket from Vogue 1466, an out of print Donna Karan design. It may seem like the wrong time of year to be making a wool jacket but I am almost always cold even in sunny weather. It’s worse now I’m working from home as my work area is the chilliest room in the house. I want something a little bit smarter than a jumper or cardigan, but not as structured as a suit jacket. This design is unlined and can be made in boiled wool for a bit of give, which is ideal.

I was puzzled by one feature of the pattern. There are separate left and right back pattern pieces because there’s a back vent so one side has an underlap. But there are some other small differences between those two pieces. The shoulder line is slightly longer on one than the other.

And the one with the longer shoulder line is also slightly longer in the body. Neither difference is huge but it’s enough to be noticeable when sewing.

I can’t see any reason for the difference. There are no separate left and right pieces for the sleeves, nor the jacket front and side pieces. I can only assume it’s a mistake. When I traced the pattern onto paper I used the longer shoulder line for both pieces and the longer body length. I’m making a toile for this one so I should see if it’s worked fairly soon.

Burda 121 04 2020

Burda 121 04/2020 draped t-shirt

Burda 121 04 2020

This top was a very quick sew. A bit of gathering, four seams, and four hems. It is Burda 121 04/2020 – it’s not often I make up a Burda pattern in the same month the magazine is dated. I am not first off the mark though – check out Sonja’s stylish all black version. And here is Burda’s version.

The cut is unusual, with the same pattern piece used for both front and back. This sort of thing can be very hit or miss in my experience. I’ve made similar designs from the Japanese Drape Drape books and they’ve either become firm favourites or never been worn at all – there is one Drape Drape t shirt I have tackled three times without producing a wearable garment yet. But this Burda one does work. I’ve worn it twice already.

It’s not completely perfect. The problem area is the neckline, which is too tight for a cowl neck and too loose for a boat neck. It doesn’t seem to know quite where to sit. Mine tends to fall backwards and so I end up showing off a bit of back.

Burda 121 04 2020

I sewed this entirely on the sewing machine. If you’re super accurate you could use an overlocker for the construction seams, but I’m not and there didn’t seem to be any point setting it up just to finish the seams in a completely non fraying fabric. I even did the hems on the sewing machine with a twin needle. I haven’t had great success with that in the past but this time I added a bit of lightweight knit interfacing to the edges which helped a lot.

The proportions aren’t quite what I was expecting, although I like them. Burda only shows it on a seated model where it appears to stop around the hip bone. It’s definitely longer than that on me. I made my usual length adjustments so possibly this one just comes up long.

Burda 121 04 2020

I don’t think I’m likely to make this again – it’s perfect for the current warm weather but I certainly don’t need two of them. It’s a great little pattern though. It could easily be adjusted to have full length sleeves or even lengthened into a minidress.

Burda 121 04 2020