The longest dress – Vogue 1239 again

Vogue 1239 is one of my favourite patterns. It’s a Chado Ralph Rucci wrap dress with many of his signature features: kimono sleeves, high collar, and endless top-stitching. Oh, the top-stitching. I first made this a couple of years ago and it took about a month. That was when I had more free time to sew and a working iron.

When Winnie of Scruffy Badger Time kindly invited me to do a post for her Desert Island Sewing series I picked Vogue 1239 as one of my eight patterns on the grounds that on a desert island I’d have time to sew it again. And then I thought, why not sew it again anyway? I wear my original one at least once a week so it’s worth the time.

Well, this took two whole months. OK so I stopped in the middle to sew my mother’s Christmas present and then my iron broke and I didn’t have time to go and buy a new one. But even so it was a slog. It took two evenings just to cut and mark the fabric and lining.


The fabric is a navy blue cotton poplin. I think I bought it on Goldhawk Road at Rachel’s epic blogger meetup last April. It feels like it’s got a bit of poly in it which (heresy) I quite like because it keeps the creases away. The lining is a 100% polyester fabric called Eton taffeta which I got from John Lewis. It’s quite heavy for a lining which works well for this dress. I nearly didn’t buy it because it was suspiciously cheap and I’ve had bad experiences with cheap lining fabric. But it had a good hand so I took the risk. I will certainly buy it again as it sewed up very well.

The pattern doesn’t call for any interfacing despite the crisp final effect. The sharpness comes from all the top-stitching.


This is a very practical dress despite its fancy origins. The style is great for cycling (with leggings underneath) and it has pockets. Pockets are good.


There’s a lot of detail on the back view of this one. All those seams. All that top-stitching. Did I mention the top-stitching enough yet? I think I got through four or five bobbins.


Even after I finished the dress it took forever to get photos of it because of New year celebrations and the bad weather. So this is technically the last project of 2013, not the first of 2014. I’m not going to do an end-of-year sewing round up because I’ve sewed so little in the last 12 months I think the numbers would depress me. So I’ll give you a silly photo instead. Happy new year!


Ninja Scientist photos

I love Vogue 1239, despite the ninja scientist vibe. Or possibly because of it.

The strange-looking sleeves are actually very comfortable to wear, although they were tricky to sew.

And it goes with my new shoes. I think it will be OK with flats too.

I think this has taken a whole month to sew. I’d like to make it again, but I need a break first!

Ninja scientist

Vogue 1239 is finished. On Wednesday I thought I was practically at the end and one more sewing session would do it. Wild optimism. That one session turned into three. Endless topstitching, head-scratching, hand sewing, seam ripping and one wrecked manicure later, it’s done. It was totally worth it. I am hoping to take some better pictures tomorrow!

And if anyone’s wondering about the title, that’s what my husband said when he saw it on me. I think he has a point but it was still worth it.

Taming the lining monster

I’ve just finished step 50 of 67 on Vogue 1239. My last couple of sewing sessions have been all about the lining. I don’t know about most people, but personally I find sewing linings tricky. The stuff is hard to cut out accurately in the first place, and then you have the problem of your slightly misshapen pieces sliding everywhere and occasionally making a break for it down the side of the sewing table. This particular lining is a mystery one bought on Karen’s trip to Goldhawk Road. It has a lovely soft hand, is a dramatic flame colour, and most importantly is 60″ wide because that’s what the pattern called for. It’s not too bad to sew with as lining fabric goes, but it has an exciting feature all of its own which that it changes colour dramatically when pressed. It goes orange, and then when it cools it goes back to the original, much redder, colour. Wikipedia informs me this is called thermochromism and has much to say on the subject. Although I don’t think in this case it was intentional.

I normally buy lining fabric from John Lewis as they have a range of cupro, aka bemberg, linings that are about as easy to sew with as lining fabric gets, although they don’t have as good a range of colours as I’d like. But those only come in 45″ widths, hence the need to look further afield. I was hoping to find silk habotai in 60″ on Goldhawk Road but all the ones I saw were 45″. Mind you, it’s easy to miss things in those shops so I’m not saying there wasn’t any. I’m still looking for a good source of regular cupro linings in lots of colours though. This website looks very promising. Anyone used them?

Counting the steps

Vogue 1239‘s instructions have 67 steps. That’s not a typo. 67. I have been sewing it for over a week, and I’m now on step 39, which still seems like a long way from the end. The first part is particularly slow. I was sewing lots of seams together but no dress seemed to be emerging until step 17, when the pile of strangely-shaped rags I’d been wrestling with suddenly developed sleeves. At that point it looked scarily child-sized. I wondered if I’d somehow cut the smallest size (a 6) instead of a 10. I rushed off to try it on and was quite surprised to find I fitted into it. On checking the tissue I found I had cut a 10, so it must be some sort of optical illusion that makes it look so tiny.

Despite all the complaining, I think this one is going to be well worth it if I get to the end without disaster. This is by no means assured as the pattern’s turning out to be above my current ability level so far, and this review I’ve found of it online reckons finishing the sleeves is seriously tricky.

But the shape is lovely. The large sleeves are dramatic but feel comfortable. It has pockets. This is a seriously good dress. So I’ll keep plugging away and hopefully get there in the end. 28 to go!

Time sink

Thanks for all the nice comments about my kimono! And yes, the gravel in the garden is pretty uncomfortable on bare feet but it was the only way to get the Japanese maple tree into the shot and given its name it just had to be done. Normal service of pictures taken in front of the wall will be resumed with the next project.

The next project is Vogue 1239, the dress that looks like a labcoat. I’m going to make my version in black cotton poplin so as not to be mistaken for one of the scientists at work.

Vogue 1239 pattern photo

The sewing rating for this pattern is ‘average’. I’ve previously made Vogue 1087 which has a sewing rating of ‘advanced’ so I figured 1239 would be quite achievable, if not a one weekend project.

I probably should have realised I was slightly wrong about what was involved when it took me two whole evenings to cut out the tissue. And another hour to lengthen all the pieces that needed lengthening.

I started pressing and cutting out the actual fabric and lining at about midday on Saturday. I think I finished transferring markings to the last piece of fabric at seven in the evening and my back still aches. Most of the fashion fabric is cut using a single layer layout so you have to cut the same pieces out several times over – and you really have to pay attention because a few pieces have multiple cutting lines and you have to cut one along each line. Piece 8 sticks in my mind in particular as you have to cut three different versions of that one.

None of this is terribly difficult if you’re concentrating so I can’t complain about the sewing rating too much. But if you make this one, allow yourself plenty of time. I haven’t even started sewing it yet.