Back to the 80s: Vintage Vogue 1308 Claude Montana dress

One thing that always strikes me when I look at fashion images from the early 80s is how warm those power dressing ladies must have been. They’re invariably wrapped in several layers, often of heavy wool, and with gloves and hats on top. Perfect for a UK winter.

This dress is very much part of that sort of look. It’s from a vintage Vogue Claude Montana pattern, number 1308. My copy came off eBay. This one comes up fairly often and inexpensively second hand so I imagine it sold well when it was in print. There’s no date on it, but comparing with the numbers and dates of Vogue patterns recorded in COPA suggests it is from 1983. I haven’t been able to find an image of the exact garment on the catwalk, unfortunately, although YouTube videos of Montana collections from 1983 have some similar styles.

The pattern has three pieces: the dress, a jacket, and a stole (the latter winning the award for the most unnecessary pattern piece ever – a giant rectangle with no markings that must have taken up an entire sheet of pattern tissue). The dress has huge 80s shoulder pads and some shaped topstitching detail around the neck and shoulders which is echoed in the jacket. But the main feature is the opening bands down the back and arms.

You’re supposed to use snaps as the band closures, which matches what I’ve seen in a lot of contemporary fashion images, but Vogue suggests buttons as an alternative and I agree – I’d be terrified of the snaps coming undone down the back. I was surprised that 1.5cm buttons were suggested which seem rather on the small side for the width of the band. Presumably that matches the size of the snaps on the original garment. My buttons are 2cm which I think looks better.

I had a hard time deciding on fabric for this. The envelope says ‘wool jersey, wool double knit, challis, lightweight crepe and raw silk’ but it’s not stated which of the pieces each fabric suggestion is for. Clearly the fabric for the dress needs to be heavy enough to support the closures so I went with the double knit option, although mine is a poly-viscose-elastane mix from Minerva rather than wool. It comes in a huge range of colours. This one is ‘ochre’ and I’m really enjoying having a change from neutrals.

This was a fairly easy sew although I didn’t follow the instructions exactly. They would have you turn under a tiny (6mm) hem on all the facings and then topstitch exactly along that line to secure the facing. This was not at all easy in a thick and bouncy ponte knit, so after the first few attempts I gave up and left the remaining facing edges flat and unfinished before topstitching. In a fraying fabric I’d have overlocked them, or I suppose they could be bound for a really fancy finish.

Those big shoulders aren’t just shoulder pads alone. There’s an extra crescent shaped stiffening layer inside the dress at the shoulder edge to help produce that very wide and rounded shape. This sort of detail is one of the things I love about Vogue patterns. Sadly I wasn’t able to track down a copy of the recommended vintage pattern for making authentic 80s shoulder pads, so I had to buy my pads from eBay and they aren’t quite the right shape or size.

I had a hard time getting the top of the back button band to sit nicely when worn. It looked fine on my dress form, but on me the outer corner of the top band kept curling outwards. The closures aren’t needed for function so I tacked it down.

I’ve only made the dress from the pattern, but my Burda 105 2/2021 jacket is a similar style to the Montana jacket and looks good with my dress. It also provides much needed pockets to the outfit.

I’ve been surprised how much I’ve worn this dress considering it was a bit of a stunt project. It’s so roomy I can get a jumper under it which has been great for keeping warm. Forget the nineties revival, I’m sticking with the eighties.

Thanks to my husband for taking the photos.

Vado jeans finished

I finished my Vado Bootstrap skinny jeans at last – just as there has been another glut of articles saying that skinny jeans are dead and we’ve all got to wear wide legs now. Oh well. I like wide legged trousers but nothing is as practical as skinnies.

I talked a bit about the sewing process in previous posts but I stand by my assertion that if you didn’t know how to make jeans the instructions that come with this pattern aren’t enough.

What the instructions are good for is some little details that give a nicer finish. Things like top stitching down the outer side seam from the waist to the end of the pocket bag. The method for the fly front led to the best top stitching I’ve ever done on a jeans fly. You make the fly closure before sewing the front crotch seam, which is sewn as a lapped seam. It sounds tricky but it works nicely and means you have a much flatter space to do the fly top stitching on. I was determined to do a better job on the top stitching than my usual slapdash effort and these changes helped.

I’m slightly less keen on the way the photos showed to top stitch the ticket pocket, with a leg of top stitching continuing past the top corner of the pocket and into the waistline seam. If everything was sitting perfectly flat this would be hidden under the outer hip pocket but the whole front pocket area tends to move about and reveal it. Also I don’t see a good functional reason for it: one less end of top stitching to tie off I suppose?

And I haven’t sewn the fly button in quite the right place…I’ll have to do that again.

Anyway the important thing is, was the custom fit pattern an improvement over my usual Burda jeans pattern? I made one small adjustment while sewing them, which was to take in the centre back seam along the yoke and reduce the waistband length to correspond, but otherwise they are sewn up as drafted.

Well it’s win some lose some. The fit on the crotch and legs is a bit better than my Burda patterns, although having carefully compared photos of these and the various Burdas the difference isn’t as huge as I thought. It was really nice not to have to lengthen the pattern. Really nice. Yes it’s a simple alteration to do but it still takes time, finding the sellotape, and clearing a big enough space on the dining table. The back pocket placement is also pretty good, which I was worried about based on the pattern photos where they looked much lower than they’ve come out on me.

The bad news is that the waist is too large. In the picture above I’ve pulled them up to where they should sit, but in practice they tend to creep down and look more like this.

Here are some full length shots. I am not really nine feet tall by the way. It’s a combination of a low camera angle and the jeans having a very high waist. Thanks to my other half for taking the pictures!

They’re a bit too long for the boots I’m wearing here but I prefer jeans to be on the long side.

The real question is whether next time I make jeans I reach for this pattern or something else. I think I will use this one, but I’ll definitely adjust it. Not just the waist either; I prefer jeans front pockets to have an extension that reaches centre front. They sit flatter that way. The pockets on these are also too deep for this style; it’s not so easy to extract things from the bottom of them. They’d be fine with a looser leg.

I’m glad I made these and they’ve got me a step closer to my perfect skinny jeans pattern, but more iterations are definitely required.

Vado Bootstrap skinny jeans part one

This project is the last one I bought fabric for in the summer. I wanted a new pair of jeans but I am not a fan of traditional blue denim, so when I saw some dark yellow denim in Barry’s Fabric Warehouse I got a couple of metres despite not having a pattern lined up. I say it’s dark yellow, but I think that’s actually the wrong side of the fabric. The other side is a classic jeans blue. The wrong side was originally off-white but has been overprinted with the yellow colour. I am using the yellow side regardless of whether it’s the ‘right’ one.

I’ve made lots of pairs of jeans over the years from various Burda patterns. They have all been good enough to get worn but the fit isn’t quite right: I get lots of folds under the seat no matter what I do. Rather than go through yet another round of tweaking I decided to give the Bootstrap Vado skinny jeans pattern a try. This is a custom PDF pattern that’s generated to match your personal measurements. It comes from the Bootstrap Patterns website, which supplies custom PDF patterns from a range of designers. Vado Designs has a few others besides the skinny jeans; in particular there’s a bootcut jeans pattern that quite a few other sewing bloggers have written about. All the reviews I’ve read have been positive which is a good start.

I haven’t finished sewing the pattern yet, but I’m about halfway so I thought I’d blog about my impressions of using the custom pattern before I get mired down in the details of fit.

The pattern is very customisable. We aren’t just talking hips, waist and inside leg: there’s the rise, the knee, thigh, and ankle sizes to enter. You can also select your desired paper size and file format, choose whether to add seam allowances (for a small extra cost) and even select the degree of stretch of your intended fabric.

I don’t think the process of taking and entering measurements is particularly easy. I found it helped a lot that I already had a pair of ‘almost right’ jeans that I could use to sanity check things like the desired rise and waistband measurement.

I really like that the pattern comes with non-overlapping pieces so no tracing is required. I got my pattern printed at a reprographics shop on A0. Annoyingly I’m tall enough that the pattern overflowed onto a second sheet by a few inches, but it was wonderful to just cut out a pattern without needing to trace it in order to add length or make any adjustments for once…although we’ll see how well it fits when it’s done.

One curious thing I’ve noticed about my final pattern is that there is absolutely no shaping in the back yoke seam. I’ve long suspected I have a flatter backside than average so this may just be the effect of the customisation, but it will be interesting to see how it fits. I’m not making a toile to check because it would need to be done in the same or very similar fabric to be useful.

The fabric length estimate is no help at all. This isn’t a surprise for a completely custom pattern and it does warn you of that. Having said that, I looked at it, decided it was a massive overestimate and then struggled to fit my pattern into two metres of fabric which is normally plenty for jeans for me. The problem is the waistband piece. The waistband is one long piece and the grain runs around the waist. My waistband piece is rather curved so it took up a huge amount of space as there weren’t many other pieces I could lay alongside it to fit into the curve. My Burda patterns have the waistband in several pieces which are cut on the cross grain. I think I prefer that even though it means more seams.

The pattern comes with fairly detailed instructions (at least by Burda standards) but if I didn’t already know how to sew jeans they would not be sufficient. In places what’s shown in the photos doesn’t match the text, and they miss some fairly important information. In particular they don’t give any direction as to which side to sew asymmetric details like the ticket pocket and the flat felling on the centre back seam. Having said that, I’ve learnt a few things from this pattern. The method given for the fly is clever and different to any I’ve tried before, so I am intending to give it a go. The instructions also have a very slick technique for the front pockets which gives a nice clean finish.

So far I’ve constructed the back, the front pockets, and am about to tackle the fly. Watch this space.