Wrap dress construction details

I thought I’d post a few construction details about my wrap dress project because I think the design has some nice finishing touches. This is a copy of a Vivienne Westwood style from many years ago. I think it was from her Red Label line. I wore the original dress until it wasn’t much more than a rag and the style’s long since been discontinued, hence the attempt to replace it by sewing my own. Here’s my attempt at a technical drawing of the original.

Here’s what it actually ended up looking like.

There is very little shaping. The left front panel has a fisheye dart (hidden by the right front panel) and there are fisheye darts in the back, which is cut on the fold so there’s no opportunity for shaping at the centre back. The skirt is very slightly pegged. The belt does most of the work.

There are facings all the way around the dress to finish the edges, including the hem, and form the collar. The lines of top-stitching you can see on the technical drawing are holding the facings in place. The edges of the facings are finished with a neat technique I first encountered on Vogue 8633. You cut out iron-on interfacing in the same shape as the facing and sew them together down the edge you want to finish, right side of fabric to the non-glued side of the interfacing.

Trim and clip round any corners and curves, and finger press the seam open.

Then fold along the seam so that you place the wrong side of the fabric to the glue side of the interfacing, rolling the seam slightly so that the join lies slightly to the wrong side of the fabric.

Fuse the interfacing to the fabric in the normal way. (Is it just me or is fusing a really boring job? Several times on this project I melted my interfacing by not paying enough attention while fusing!) This leaves a really nicely finished edge on the facing. None of this fiddly business of pressing the seam allowances under and hoping they’ll stay pressed while you stitch them down – the glue on the interfacing holds it all in place.

You sew all the facing pieces together in a loop and then sew them to the edge of the dress in one continuous seam, then turn and top-stitch down the fronts and the hem. Around the back of the neck and along the shoulder seams you stitch in the ditch of the collar seam so that the facing is caught over the seam and hides the seam allowances. I really like the fact that the seam allowances on the dress are mostly hidden. The only seams you actually have to finish are the side seams and the shoulder seams, which show for a short way between the neck and arm facings.

The belt pieces are attached to the dress by catching them in the facing seam. The holes that the belt and collar pass through are just large buttonholes. The one on the right panel is reinforced by top-stitching a small interfaced rectangle of fashion fabric to the back of the panel to give it strength. I didn’t bother doing the above finish on the rectangle edges as short straight edges are easy to control; I just pressed the edges under and sewed it on quickly before it had a chance to change shape.

OK, enough with the details. For my next project I’m going for a complete change and not only using a ready-made pattern, but one I’ve made before. That’ll be a nice change of pace.

That’s no wrap dress, it’s a space station

I finally finished my wrap dress. It is a copy of a Vivienne Westwood dress I had for many years and wore until it wasn’t fit to be seen. The style is no longer available so the only solution was to make my own version. It has a lovely asymmetric collar detail. The left collar extends into a flap which tucks though a buttonhole on the right collar. If you wear it tucked, as below, you get a keyhole effect.

But it also works well worn open.

Here are some side views. Hopefully you can just about see that the front hem corners are curved and that there’s a wide line of top-stitching around the edges holding the facings firmly in place. Installing the facings was a bit of a nervous moment as they go the whole way round the dress, including the hem and the neckline. You sew the facings together in a loop and hope you were accurate with seam allowances and it’ll actually be the right length to fit onto the dress. I was very relieved when mine went on smoothly.

The back of the dress is fairly plain by comparison.

If anyone’s wondering about the post title, the Liberty print this dress is made from resembles the Death Star when viewed close up.

Despite the science fiction inspiration, I think the final effect is more vintage than modern. I’m no fashion historian but it it feels a bit 1930s to me. The sort of thing you might wear to take tea with the vicar in Agatha Christie or PG Wodehouse. Not the kind of event I regularly have to dress for! But this will get plenty of wear for fixing computers and teaching maths.

Disaster strikes

Disaster has struck my wrap dress project. As I posted on Sunday, I managed to cut the body of the dress out wrong side up so it would wrap the wrong way. That was recoverable from – as people kindly said, it’s likely no one’s going to notice. But when I came to sew the collar I found I’d cut the collar pieces the ‘correct’ way up, so they will have the wrong side of the fabric on the outside when I attach them to body. I haven’t got any more of the fabric so that’s the end of that. At least I only wasted the polyester and saved the red swirl print fabric for a better fate.

I am still intending to make the final version of the dress out of my Liberty fabric, but before I cut that out I’m going to remake the pattern with seam allowances included and the pieces marked ‘this way up’!

Do you notice which way a wrap dress wraps?

Do you notice which way a wrap dress wraps? As you’ve probably guessed, I have managed to cut out my wrap dress the wrong way up so it’s going to wrap left over right instead of right over left. I thought I was being clever by cutting it out with the wrong side of the fabric up. The idea was that it would then be easy to mark the darts onto the wrong side of the fabric with chalk as I wouldn’t need to turn the fabric over. This fabric is slippery and creases as soon as you look at it so the less handling it gets the better. Then I forgot to flip the pattern pieces as well as the fabric and didn’t notice until it was too late.

Personally I don’t think this is the end of the world – I had to think a bit to work out which way round women’s clothes normally do wrap in the first place. In addition, the fabric I’m using makes the detail of the pattern almost invisible.

I guess this is something most sewists manage to do at some point or another. I shall finish the dress and see if I notice it’s ‘wrong’ when I’m wearing it.

Revenge of the stash gods

Remember the other day I was moaning about how I always buy too much fabric and end up with lots of little lengths left over? Well the stash gods heard me, got in their time machine, and went back two years to my very first visit to the fabric shops of Goldhawk Road where they caused me to buy a very sensible two metre length of this swirl print cotton. Normally I’d buy two and a half metres to be on the safe side, and end up with half a metre left over. So buying two metres was obviously the appropriate and responsible decision, and if I’d used it to make the McCall’s 5799 minidress I’d originally intended, two metres would have been the perfect amount.

red and white swirl pattern fabric

And now I want to use it for my wrap dress project instead, and it’s about 10cm too short! No matter how I arrange it, the pattern will not fit on the fabric. If you’re wondering about the big space on the bottom right, that’s because the back piece is cut on the fold so it’s taken up by the other half of the back. The pattern has no seam allowances and a few of the other pieces need to be cut twice so it’s even worse than it looks. No way can I arrange the three big pieces without something overlapping. And all I need is a tiny bit more length.

I have learnt my lesson. And now I’m off to cut the wrap dress out of this gloriously 70s polyester bought on the same trip. Another two metre length – but 150cm wide.

orange and black hexagon pattern fabric

Wrap dress mark 1 – the first muslin

I’ve just done a muslin for my Liberty fabric dress. The pattern is an attempt to reproduce an elderly and much loved Vivienne Westwood wrap dress that has been sitting in a box for the last few years because I wore it to destruction but can’t bear to chuck it. Here’s the now rather sad-looking original. The most interesting feature aside from the amazing fabric is the collar, which extends into a sort of long flap on the left front that gets tucked through a buttonhole on the right front. Alternatively you can wear the flap loose. The original never looked quite right on me when worn tucked in, but it’s effective on the dressform.

Here’s the muslin on me. It needs a few changes, in particular bit of extra width over the hips, but I think I’ve managed to make the collar work!

What changed was that I moved the buttonhole down quite a way. The muslin now has three buttonholes. Here’s the collar tucked into the highest one, which corresponds to the one on the original dress.

And here it is on the lowest buttonhole, which is the one I shall use.

And here’s the collar worn loose.

So this is looking quite hopeful so far. Of course I still have to do all the adjustments, draft facings, and work out how to construct the real thing, but I’m very pleased with this for a first effort.

Pattern Choice

I’m still trying to make my mind up about what pattern to use for my Death Star fabric. The reason I was originally drawn to the fabric is that it reminded me of this Vivienne Westwood wrap dress, which I bought years ago and wore until it’s practically in rags. I couldn’t bear to throw it out so it’s sat in a drawer for a few years. I haven’t ironed it for the picture – I assure you it wasn’t quite this tatty when I put it away!

The print is fantastic, but I also really like the shape of this dress and the interesting collar detail. Although I don’t remember it being quite this tiny…I wonder if the ill-advised trip through the washing machine that made the dye run also made the fabric shrink. Here’s the Death Star fabric again for comparison. The spheres are about 5cm (2″) across.

A rummage through my collection of Burdas hasn’t turned anything quite like the Vivienne Westwood, but there are a few nice wrap dresses.

This is 134 from April 2011. Burda made it up in a floral silk batiste. I like that it has long sleeves and pockets, but it needs a huge amount of fabric. Assuming I can fit the pieces onto my yardage this is my current favourite.

This is 122 from October 2011. Again, nice long sleeves and a real 70s vibe which I think would go well with the print.

111 from October 2010. For some reason I am not as keen on the technical drawing as on the photo of the style in the magazine, where they’ve made the dress up in a large scale animal print. Not liking the technical drawing is probably a bad sign.

104 from September 2011. This was the cover dress, made up in animal-print chiffon. I’m not sure about the asymmetric sleeve detail at all, but the rest of the shape is nice and the sleeves can always be changed.

A little voice in my head is saying I could always make one of the Burda dresses and copy the Vivienne Westwood too if I bought a bit more fabric…