Still sewing with a plan

I’m making Vogue 9299, a blouse from their Easy Options range. This one really lives up to the name: two significantly different sleeve options, two collars, and two lengths; one with a straight hem and one with a curved one. There’s also a cuff variation on the puffy sleeve option.

Vogue 9299 envelope cover art, somethingdelightful.com

I’m making this as part of my attempt at sewing a wardrobe. It’s going to be in black cotton poplin so should go very well with the black pleated culottes and black jeans I’ve already made. It might also work with the silver drawstring waist trousers and the planned lantern trousers, but we’ll see.

I had to adjust the pattern quite a lot. I bought my fabric online a while ago, and the website said it was 150cm wide so I bought three metres to do the view with the long body, the shirt collar, and the puffy sleeves with cuffs. I checked the length when it arrived, but didn’t think to check the width. And when I came to use it, it turned out to be 115cm. No way was the view of the pattern I wanted fitting into that, especially as I always need to lengthen tops and sleeves. And I really wanted the curved hem version, but it was more the sash and the shape of the hem I liked than the extra long body length. I compromised by tracing that view with my usual 5cm extra length addition, which gets added between the bust and waist, and then taking 20cm length out below the waist. After that I was just able to squeeze all the pieces out of the cut I had. It helped that it was a generous three metres. I even had room to add a hidden button placket. And it’s satisfying to only have little scraps left over. I couldn’t even get a face mask out of what’s left.

Being lazy, I googled how to draft the hidden placket rather than trying to work it out for myself, and came across a tutorial from Threads. It has a nice little touch where you sew the under layers together by machine between the buttonholes. It doesn’t show on the outside but keeps everything sitting really flat. Definitely using that one again.

I’m getting on with sewing it together very slowly. I’m doing it in the evenings and really struggling to see what I’m doing on the black fabric. I need better light bulbs for the sewing room!

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.

Silver trousers again: Vogue 1347

Work on the Merchant and Mills Strides trousers continues. But here’s a trouser pattern I recently finished instead.

Long time readers of this blog know I have a thing for silver trousers. I usually have at least one pair in my wardrobe and they get a lot of wear. Recently I’ve changed shape – I lost weight while sick – and my clothes no longer fit. Things should return to normal soon but in the meantime I need some trousers that don’t fall down. Enter the bottoms from Vogue 1347, wide leg trousers with a drawstring waist. No link to the pattern because this one is out of print, although it’s often available second hand on eBay and Etsy. Here’s the line drawing.

Vogue 1347 line drawing, McCalls

The lines of the trousers are pretty simple but this is a Ralph Rucci designer pattern so the finishing is amazing. If you followed the pattern instructions closely you’d get an absolutely exquisite garment: fully lined without an exposed seam allowance anywhere. I’m afraid I didn’t bother with the lining at all, and my seam allowances are finished with the overlocker. I’ve never seen such comprehensive instructions for lining trousers with a fly front anywhere else though, so I may come back to the pattern in future just for that.

I always find things drop out of inseam pockets on trousers so I added zips to mine. And I couldn’t be bothered to make a long skinny drawstring out of self fabric so mine is an acrylic cord. The fabric itself is Lady McElroy Uttoxeter, a black and white tonic twill that looks silver from a distance. It’s no longer available anywhere I’ve looked but this particular piece came from Sherwoods Fabrics.

And now the obligatory back view, because this is a sewing blog after all. I’m standing up straighter than I usually would which I think explains the folds. They have plenty of room anyway, and would even if I was at my normal size. I normally need to go up one size for the hips in most sewing pattern size charts, but this pattern has so much ease built in I didn’t bother when I traced it. I added 5cm to the length, as I usually do with Vogue, and they’ve come out just above floor length which is perfect. The hem allowance is a huge 8cm so there is a lot of wiggle room even without lengthening the pattern but I wanted to be sure to have a deep hem.

I’m really pleased with these. They are a lovely shape and I like that they have a proper fly front despite the adjustable waist; it makes me feel slightly more dressed up. And it’s so nice to have something that fits.

Thanks to my husband for the photos.

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.

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

Bits and pieces

This blog waxes and wanes, but of late I’ve been managing to post consistently every week. I can’t say I’ve made a lot of progress on my jacket project since my last post though. I’ve made the welt pockets…which is basically step one of the pattern. Not a single construction seam has been sewn. I haven’t even made the darts.

The pockets are nice, though. Admittedly from the outside they aren’t the greatest welt pockets I have ever made. Slightly uneven welt, and the ends are a bit squashed.

Single welt pocket in black boiled wool

But the insides are gorgeous. The pattern instructions (Vogue 1466, an out of print Donna Karan design) include a new-to-me technique that makes the pocket bag end up french seamed. Not an untidy or even overlocked edge in sight. I’m not normally one to care about beautifying the inside of a garment, but this jacket is unlined so the pocket bags are going to be seen. I’ll have to go through with the Hong Kong finish the pattern recommends on all the other seams now, simply in order not to let the pocket bags down.

French seamed pocket bag

Anyway I imagine anyone who’s still reading has heard more than enough about welt pockets by now. I also wanted to share a couple of links to blogs I’ve enjoyed reading lately.

Some Use Some Wear is a blog about the evolution of a wardrobe. It’s not a sewing blog, but I enjoy it because the author talks about the stories behind her clothes.

The other one isn’t a single blog – it’s a whole series of blogs about creating incredibly screen-accurate Doctor Who cosplays. They aren’t being updated any more but there’s a huge amount of reading material in the archives. Even if you’re not into Doctor Who, the process the author goes through to source authentic fabrics and develop accurate patterns is fascinating. He covers several of the classic and new series Doctors. My favourite is his Fourth Doctor costume blog and all the others are linked from there.

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.