May the Force be with you: Vogue 8512

Vogue 8512 side view
I’m getting the Star Wars thing out of the way in the title, because there’s no denying this dress is something a Jedi would wear. It’s not just my version though: look at the envelope art below. All the girl in brown needs is a lightsaber to hang off her utility belt. And I can see Princess Leia in the white outfit although obviously she’d have some amazingly elaborate hairdo to go with it.

Vogue 8512 envelope art

Anyway. This is Vogue 8512, a pattern from the Very Easy range that I was given for Christmas when I first started sewing. I don’t think it stayed in print very long; there are only two reviews on Pattern Review which implies it wasn’t particularly popular. It certainly is a simple pattern in its original form: kimono sleeves so nothing to set in, princess seams for easy fitting, and there are only four pattern pieces to worry about as the lining is cut from the same pieces as the dress. The pattern has a zip down the centre back but it’s not needed if you use a fabric with any stretch. I made it up in dark grey doubleknit when I first got it and skipped the lining, substituting a facing around the neck. I never managed to get the neck to stand up as well as the one in the envelope picture though. This was way before the blog but there are some murky photos of that version here and here.

Recently I was going through my stash trying to reduce it a little and found some mocha ponte double knit. I had a plan for it when I bought it, but life moves on and the dress I’d originally intended won’t work for me any more. So I went looking for an alternative pattern with long sleeves, pockets, and a skirt I can cycle in. Nothing completely fit the bill, but Vogue 8512 looked easy enough to alter. I traced it again and altered the pattern to have large pockets in the princess panel. I also extended the sleeves to full length. I then made separate pattern pieces for a lining with facings of the body fabric around the neck, rather than simply reusing the body pieces for the lining.

Vogue 8512 front view

I was also determined to make that boat neck look like the one on the envelope. I interfaced the neck area with some knit fusible, but that didn’t look like it would give enough shape so I also attached two layers of poly organza to the wrong side of the facings before sewing them to the dress. This was not a scientific process: I tore a couple of rectangular strips of approximately the depth of the facing and basted them along the neck seam, letting the bottom edge of the organza hang free. It seems to have worked: the collar stands up on its own. I honestly did not adjust it at all for the photos, and it was a windy day when we took them.

There’s a back zip in this version because despite using a stretch lining (The Lining Company’s stretch poly satin) I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to get into it without. It turns out there was no need to bother. But it’s a good invisible zip insertion.

Vogue 8512 back view

The lining was bagged: I’m proud to say there isn’t a stitch of hand sewing in this dress. I didn’t make a perfect job of it; the lining tends to pull on the lower hem a little, hence some of the strange shapes in the pictures above. The sleeve hems don’t seem to have the same problem. But now I’ve figured out the process I’ll do a better job next time.

Although this is certainly a practical dress and I’m going to wear it, styling it is a challenge. It definitely needs a belt. The one above is the best out of the ones I already have, but I think it needs something slightly different so I’m looking for a new one. Right now I’m wavering between canvas webbing or full-on metallic. Suggestions welcome!

Vogue hits it out of the park

I said I’d blog about fasteners for the white jacket next, but Vogue have released such a great autumn pattern collection that I want to talk about that instead!

I always start with the designer patterns, because that’s what Vogue is all about. And this time there are not one but two Ralph Rucci patterns. V1404 is a sweet dress (perhaps too sweet for me, but very Rucci) and V1419 an awesome unlined coat. I’d make it in a fairly light fabric and wear it as a winter dress. I was curious about the original styling and looked these up on Ralph Rucci’s collections on The coat is look 1 from the 2013 pre-fall collection and the dress is actually from spring 2013. I wonder if that one was originally intended for the previous Vogue release, where we didn’t get a Rucci at all?

Vogue 1419 pattern photo

There are three patterns with wonderful seaming from Donna Karan and DKNY: V1407, V1408 and V1409. I’m not so keen on Vogue’s fabric choices for these (to be fair to Vogue, V1409 at least is simply imitating the original look), but they would look fabulous made up in contrasting colours of the scuba knit that’s everywhere at the moment. The original V1408 is made up in different shades of blue – at least I think so, it’s hidden under a jacket in the fashion show. I couldn’t find the original V1407 at all.

Vogue Donna Karan seam detail designs

The fourth Donna Karan design, V1417 is a dramatic but very wearable asymmetric top and trousers combo. I’m not totally sold on the use of knit fabric for the trousers though. You’d need something with a good deal of lycra to avoid bagging.

Vogue 1417 pattern photo

And it doesn’t end there. Look at this wonderful dress from Mizono, V1410. It has an elastic drawstring allowing the length to be adjusted. Perfect for cycling. This is the sort of interesting detail that is the reason I use so many Vogue patterns.

Vogue 1410 envelope pictures

And talking of interesting details, check out V9035, the Marci Tilton pattern. The pockets are something you won’t see anywhere else.

Vogue 9035 envelope pocket detail

I could go on much longer, but the last one I want to highlight is V1405. At first it looks like a simple batwing knit dress. But read the description: draped midriff with stays and (p)urchased elastic, slides and rings for shoulder straps on bodice lining. There’s some internal structure there that would make it an interesting sew.

So that’s the designer section. What about the rest?

Easy Options has a blouse with cuff and placket variations and a princess seam dress with sleeve, collar, and skirt varations this time around. While I seem to have seen similar things to both before, they’re both nice styles and both rated Easy. I’d certainly have gone for the dress if I didn’t already have a few patterns like it.

Very Easy Vogue has some gems. There are stylish tops, jackets, and dresses. Some have subtle details that raise them above the ordinary, such as the unusual slightly set back shoulder seams on V9028, the side seams on V9026, and the curved shoulder yokes on V9019. Although I have to say my favourites are the simple but effective V9038 cape and the batwing dress V9021.

Vogue 9021 envelope art

The regular Vogue patterns seem a little too grown up for me this time around, although they continue a lot of the themes seen in the other sections. There’s an asymmetric dress V9024. V9031 is a skirt with seam detail reminiscent of the Donna Karan designs, but being a skirt rather than a dress it’s probably more wearable. And there are two very traditional patterns for little girls, V9042 and V9043 and an interesting man’s jacket in V9041.

The vintage patterns are conspicuous by their absence in this release which surprises me as 40s and 50s designs still seem to be everywhere in blogland. I’m not keen on wearing styles from those eras myself but there are plenty of people who are! I hope Vogue aren’t discontinuing this range for good. I’d love it if they re-released some of their sixties and seventies styles.

So in summary, Best Vogue Release Ever. And now I just have to wait until they come out in the UK!

Does this look familiar?

Here’s my new coat, Vogue 1276 by Sandra Betzina.

Here’s the pattern envelope photo.

And this I found while browsing on Net-a-Porter. It’s from Rick Owens Lilies, one of my favourite lines.

While strikingly similar it’s not quite the same style. The Vogue has a much fuller skirt and lacks the extra-long sleeves. But it has all the features that appeal to me in the Rick Owens coat. Pure serendipity!


Whew. I finally finished the black version of Vogue 8633. Unfortunately my photographer is out on the town so I only have dressform pictures at the moment. The artificial light doesn’t really do justice to the fabric, which is a stretch twill with a wonderful sheen.

This dress was one of the things I wanted to make when I first bought a sewing machine. Not this exact pattern, but the style and fabric combination.

A long time ago, when I was first working, I bought a black dress from Oasis. It was slim and sleeveless with an invisible zip at the front and another one in the skirt vent. It was pretty expensive for me at the time but totally worth it because I wore it about once a week for years. It was the perfect combination of comfortable, smart, and little bit different. It was finally retired a few years ago, but I couldn’t bear to put it in the bin so it went into the box of retired clothes that lives under the bed.

When I started sewing I knew I wanted to make a dress like it, but it’s taken a long time to find suitable fabric. A knit wouldn’t have the right effect, but very stretchy wovens are hard to come by. The one I used turned up in Stone Fabrics‘ swatch club a few months ago. It’s perfect. I wish I’d bought more of it now!

Here is the Oasis dress for comparison.

Now I look at it again, it’s not really very like Vogue 8633. The Oasis dress has princess seams, cap sleeves, and is unlined. The Vogue has darts and no sleeves. But I have copied the zip in the skirt.

I’m so pleased to have my favourite dress back. Hopefully I’ll have some better pictures of it next time!

Shoe selection

Here’s my finished version of Vogue 1240. This was a pattern with all sorts of fit problems, but thanks to some good advice from Pattern Review (not sure if that link will work for non-members but it’s free to sign up) I managed to produce something wearable. The trouble is I can’t find shoes to wear with it.
I made the dress to wear to a wedding. I’m therefore going to have to have shoes I can walk around in all day – which pretty much rules out the ones in the picture above.

I didn’t think I owned all that many shoes. And then when trying to find something to go with the dress I discovered I have five pairs of black heels. (This doesn’t include the ones I took to the charity shop after trying them on with this dress and realising I can’t even stand in them. Those are now out of the house so Do Not Count.)

All of the above look much too heavy with this dress apart from the very strappy pair – which as I said I have trouble walking in. I can do wedges or very chunky heels but not stilettos. What to do? Are kitten heels more wearable than they look? Can I learn to walk in the stilettos in the next month? What about dancing? Right now I’m wavering towards the Dolcis pair with the flared heels (middle top) on the grounds that being able to dance is what counts!

Go see this – Yohji Yamamoto at the V&A

I’m back from my break from blogging. Teaching and marking are over for this academic year and I’m really looking forward to having some more free time to sew.

One of the few sewing-and-style-related things I have managed to do over the last couple of weeks was get to the Yohji Yamamoto restrospective at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. And it was great. It’s on until July 10th, and if you get a chance to go and see it I really recommend it.

It’s not just that the clothes are fascinating – and they are – but the way they are displayed is so much better for the viewer than most exhibitions. Normally the light level is kept low and everything is up on stands or inside glass cases to protect it from damage. This exhibition hall is brilliantly lit like a stage show. The clothes are presented on dress forms dotted around the floor. You can walk all the way round each one and get close enough to see all the details of the garment. You get so much more out of it than most fashion retrospectives. You can’t touch anything of course, but I was able to take a peek at the inside construction of the skirt of one of the more unusual dresses by sitting on the floor, and no one seemed to mind.

The clothes themselves are great. The exhibition has both mens and womenswear. The womens’ clothes vary from the clever but rather unwearable – for example a long black evening dress with an integrated sequinned handbag on the backside – to things I immediately wanted to reproduce. There’s a lot of unusual construction and structure to admire. Plenty of black and some wonderful bright orangey reds. There’s also a small group of coloured dresses where the fabric has very fine patterns produced by unusual dyeing techniques. The techniques had names I didn’t know but they looked like variants of tie-dye and batik to me. The fabrics in general were beautiful, although apparently they are all specially made for the designer so that’s not so surprising.

The menswear is not as wearable in general but I do like the suits with attached oversized tartan wraps and the colours. There were also videos of many of the collections to watch.

The exhibition spills out into the rest of the museum with five or six groups of garments placed outside the exhibition hall in various parts of the building. The V&A is huge so it took a while to track them all down, and in the process I saw parts of the collections I’d never gone into before.

Anyway, do go if you get the chance. I’ve certainly come back with some new ideas, and it’s not often you get the chance to look at this sort of clothing so closely. I hope the V&A does more of these.