I rarely fail to finish a sewing project. They aren’t all successes by any means but I aim to get them to a state where I can photograph them. This time, not so much.
I was trying to reproduce the Saint Laurent jumpsuit below.
Burda 130-04-2009 seemed like a good starting point: it had the notched collar, close fit, and two piece sleeves. I make a lot of Burda patterns and I’d made a pair of jeans from this very issue which I wear almost once a week, so I was confident about the fit.
I traced the pattern off, armed myself with every photo I could find of the original Saint Laurent garment online and made a list of things to change.
Add the crossover front
Change side seam pockets to slash pockets
Add fake pocket flaps at waist
Add back welt pockets
Tweak the shoulder line to accommodate shoulder pad
Move the darts to line up between bodice and trousers
A while ago I made royal blue satin jogging bottoms on a whim, and then last year I was inspired by the all-blue outfit in the photo below to make a royal blue jumper to go with them. The combination of satin joggers and jumper didn’t get a lot of wear because the satin joggers aren’t a very practical garment. But the idea of wearing royal blue head to toe wouldn’t go away.
This is my second try. I knew I probably wouldn’t get much wear out of delicate cropped trousers like the Saint Laurent ones above so I went for a full length straight legged style in a sturdy cotton canvas fabric. It’s a great colour but the fabric creases like nothing on earth; I ironed them before going out for photos but it looks like I might as well not have bothered.
The pattern is a tried and tested one: Burda 112 03/2012, a pattern for very simple canvas culottes or straight legged trousers with slanted hip pockets. On the original design the front is completely flat and there are a couple of darts and patch pockets in the back. I added front pleats and changed the back patch pockets to welt pockets to match the Saint Laurent trousers, but somehow missed that the originals had turn-ups. The waistband’s a bit narrow compared to the inspiration as well. I really needn’t have bothered coping the pleats and pockets as the basic shape of the pattern is so different that there’s very little resemblance to the inspiration garment.
Incidentally there’s an odd thing about the pattern. I’ve made it three times and on every pair the waistband side and centre back seams have come unstitched after a bit of wear and required fixing up with hand sewing. I haven’t had this problem with any other trouser patterns, and I’ve made lots of different ones over the years. The waist on the pattern isn’t unduly tight and I use interfacing. Is it something to do with the lack of width in the waistband? Do I trim the waistband seams too aggressively? But then why doesn’t it happen on every trouser pattern? I like the pattern enough that I have diligently fixed each pair as it failed despite my hatred of mending, but I wish it didn’t happen at all. I’m writing this here mainly so that next time I make these I remember to stitch the waistband seams with the triple stitch.
The back welt pockets on my version are effectively just decoration because I made them too narrow. It’s a pleasure to make welt pockets in cotton canvas though. No wobbly welts here.
This was a very simple sew. The worst bit was the cutting because my fabric had a big fade mark that I had to work around. Oddly it wasn’t down the centre crease but slightly to one side of it. I had enough length to get all the pieces cut while avoiding the faded bit, but I’d be wary of buying this particular fabric again which is why I’m not linking to the source.
Despite all that I think they’ve come out wearable. I wasn’t aiming for an identical copy of the Saint Laurent outfit in the first place, but I think the fabrics I used give the same vibrant effect while the style of the garments is more practical. No cold ankles for me.
This dress is the second item in a set of projects inspired by recent Saint Laurent designs. This particular project was inspired by the jersey maxi dresses from the RTW Spring 2023 show. There were several variations shown, but the common features were that they were floor length and clingy with a very narrow skirt, high neckline, and often had a drapey hood. Quite a few had open backs or were sleeveless, and most were made in slightly sheer fabric. They remind me of the sort of thing Grace Jones wore in A View To A Kill but even slinkier.
I don’t lead the life of a Bond villainess so some compromises had to be made. The basic silhouette could be copied, but my dress had to have sleeves and a back, and be in a somewhat sturdier fabrication than the original. I thought a viscose ponte with plenty of elastane would probably provide the right combination of drape, elasticity, and coverage. Mine’s Croft Mill’s luxury ponte in navy. I wanted the sapphire colourway but they didn’t have enough in stock, and now I’m glad I went with the navy as it’s much more subtle.
The pattern I used as a base is an old favourite: the dress fromVogue 8866, a now out of print wardrobe pattern from 2012. I made it floor length and straightened out the side seam so it falls vertically from the hip rather than tapering into the hem. I made my usual additions to the bodice and sleeve length for Vogue, and as always made one size smaller than the size chart recommended.
The original design has a slit in the top of the centre back seam with a hook and eye fastening at the collar, but I used an invisible zip in the centre back instead. I considered trying to do without a centre back opening at all, but even in a stretchier knit I think I’d struggle to get this over my head without one. I kind of wish I’d made the zip longer so I could step into the dress; it’s not the easiest thing to put on.
The seamlines on the Vogue pattern don’t bear much resemblance to the inspiration dresses. The Vogue has raglan sleeves and a centre front seam whereas the originals have regular set in sleeves and the front is generally cut in one piece. Normally this sort of difference would annoy me, but I think my version benefits from the extra seamlines. It doesn’t have the sheer fabric or skin showing that the originals do so a bit of extra design interest helps.
The hood is a separate piece: it comes from a vintage 80s Vogue pattern: 1439 by Alke Boker from 1984. Keeping it separate not only has the advantage of simplicity, it theoretically makes the dress more versatile.
Will I wear it without the hood? Unlikely. It needs some accessories in this mode.
The original pattern has the hood cut on the bias but that makes it an incredible fabric hog. The hood doesn’t need to stretch in order to fit, so the only reason I can think of for doing it that way is to make a woven fabric drape better. I cut mine on the straight: I’m using a knit and a drapey one at that, and it saved at least half a metre.
I knew this dress needed to have pockets. I don’t carry a bag any more so clothes without pockets don’t get worn. But pockets on a knit dress usually sag and spoil the line. I’m usually prepared to live with that for the sake of having somewhere to put my keys and phone. but for this style the sleek shape is everything. I put invisible zips in the side seams and attached pockets underneath by sewing the pocket pieces to the seam allowances after the zips were in. I was pleasantly surprised by how well it worked. I’ve got my usual stuff in the pockets in all the photos and it doesn’t show unless you’re far too close. Definitely going to do this on future projects too.
The runway photos show how narrow the original dresses are. There’s no walking slit. so only tiny ladylike steps are possible. I almost added a side slit to my dress but at the last minute decided it would be too much of a departure from the shape I wanted. I can’t run in this without hitching it up (so elegant) but it’s more wearable than I expected; it works perfectly well for a day working at my desk.
When worn down the hood doesn’t behave well. It tends to rotate around my neck and end up back to front. I suppose I could come up with some way to attach it to the dress – little snaps or a button and loop – but it doesn’t seem worth the effort to go back and retrofit it now.
I’ve been pleasantly surprised that I’ve worn this a few times already. And I think it has some of the vibe of the inspiration dresses. Silicon Valley had better watch out.
It’s been a while because this dress took an age to make. It’s the first one of a set of garments inspired by recent Saint Laurent collections, in this case the orange minidress from Spring 2022.
I’ve been drawn to this particular dress since I first saw it, in an advert in Vogue. It’s currently selling for an eyewatering £1795 at Matches, so the only way I could ever scratch the itch was to make my own version.
Orange does not love me, hence the switch to purple fabric. The fabric also had to be relatively inexpensive because realistically this is a stunt dress. I don’t have the Saint Laurent lifestyle. And yes, I should be only be adding things to my wardrobe that are going to get at least 30 wears, and this one seems rather unlikely to meet that target. I’ll have to count the entertainment value of making it and taking silly photos as something instead.
So my fabric is Croft Mill’s BB viscose ponte roma, rather than the luxurious wool woven the original was made in. I went for a knit for comfort and a bit of help with getting a good fit. This particular ponte turned out to be excellent value. I’ve had far pricier ones that weren’t as nice. Sadly the purple is now sold out but Croft Mill have it in other colours.
Having found the fabric I then needed a pattern. After studying every picture of the original I could find online I started with a Burda pattern for a knit jumpsuit which had the same strong shoulder line, and turned that into the basic dress shape with centre front and back seams and a v neck. That centre front seam isn’t just for decoration but turns out to be essential to getting the dress shaping right; it curves in just below the waist. There’s similar shaping in the centre back seam plus two dart tucks at the back. My original pattern turned out much too baggy and there was a lot of adjusting needed after I’d sewed it together. I’d added side seam pockets which made that more difficult. Pockets do bad things to the line, but any outfit that doesn’t have them generally gets worn only once. I ended up taking in the centre front and centre back seams and fiddling with the tucks. Taking in the centre back seam was sad because I’d done a brilliant invisible zip insertion. I couldn’t face ripping the whole zip out and redoing it so it’s a bodge job: I ripped out the lower half of the zip and shortened the zip to end just below where I’d unpicked it to, and then took in the seam below the new end of the zip.
The sleeve on the Burda pattern was one piece, and the Saint Laurent dress has a two piece sleeve with buttoned cuffs. I found a Threads tutorial for turning a one piece sleeve into a two piece but a lot of trial and error was involved. My first attempt was pretty sad: it didn’t have enough volume and the cuffs were too loose and too short. Luckily I had enough fabric to recut the sleeves after updating the pattern. After much agonising I used tortoisehell effect plastic buttons on the cuffs. I was very torn between those and some rather fine metal shank buttons in a dull shade of silver. But on the day I was doing the cuffs I was convinced the whole thing was going to be a disaster and fancy buttons would be a waste, so it got the plastic ones.
And here it is in all its glory.
The cuffs are still a bit too loose and the finishing and fabric don’t remotely compare to the designer dress, but I think it’s come out as something at least adjacent to it. But will I wear it? I did wear it to the pub straight after we took the photos, with my enormous purple Issey Miyake coat over the top which tones the look down considerably. I’m glad to have tried it out but I doubt this will be a wardrobe staple.
I’m currently making a dress out of a Ponte Roma fabric in a lovely shade of purple. It’s a knock off of this Saint Laurent style.
The original has working cuffs, which require buttons. No problem, I thought. I have the family button box and there must be something in there that will go with the fabric. But no.
Matching the purple was clearly a non-starter.
I initially thought that brown might work. But none of these seem quite right.
Maybe yellow or grey?
Gold is better. I especially like the black one with the gold border for this style of dress…but it’s very blingy and I think I’d feel a bit weird wearing it because I am not a lady who lunches. More like a lady who hastily grabs a sandwich. I also usually go for silver hardware on coats, bags etc rather than gold.
Two silver options here. I quite like both, but the shiny one is a bit too big for the size of the cuff and also too blingy for every day, and the dull one is maybe a bit too dull.
I’m probably over thinking this, especially as the first version of the dress is likely to be wonky anyway – pattern drafting isn’t something I’ve done a lot of.
Let’s start off with a back view for a change. In all honesty there is very little difference between the front and back of this dress as seen in in photos. It’s a beautifully simple design. The pattern is vintage Vogue 1101 by Christian Dior, all the way from 1982. Not the actual Christian Dior: the date puts it in the Marc Bohan era of Dior.
Here’s the pattern envelope. The red and black version is very striking but red and I don’t get on. This was an eBay find and it’s a Canadian version of the pattern: it’s entirely metric.
Amazingly I found a contemporary runway photograph of the design. The red looks more orangey here. It’s clear the original fabric is slightly shiny and very drapey. The pattern envelope says it’s medium weight tissue faille, which is not a fabric I am familiar with. Also is it just me or is the skirt a lot shorter on the runway photo?
My version is made of much less exotic polyester crepe. Specifically it’s John Kaldor Prestige crepe in royal blue and black. I got it from Sew Essential. Handily they had the raglan shoulder pads too: being an 80s style of course it has padded shoulders. I love the look, but positioning and sewing the wretched things in is one of my least favourite tasks.
I can’t complain too much though. When I measured the pattern I discovered I didn’t need to make a single adjustment to make it fit me. I normally have to add a lot of length to the body and sleeves, so I always trace the pattern and make adjustments on the tracing. The pattern pieces didn’t even need cutting out on this one because the original owner had done that. Good thing, because actually cutting the fabric was a trial because of the large and awkwardly shaped pieces.
Annoyingly I don’t seem to have a photo that demonstrates the pockets. There are pockets. Boring side seam pockets, but entirely functional. I managed to hack a hole in one while running the edges though the overlocker, so the insides have an ugly repair – as always my finishing isn’t going to win any sewing prizes. I liked this dress enough to hand hem it but again it would probably be best not to look at the underside of the hems. They’re ok from the outside and that will have to do.
I like the closure on this: buttons at the shoulder rather than a zip, which might spoil the lines on the back. The belt is a bit odd. It’s a little short for wrapping around twice but far too long just to wrap around once. Twice seems the best option but if I made this again I’d add a little length.
I am not sure I will ever need another one of these – it’s very memorable – but I think it would work well in a lighter weight ponte as well as the crepe.
Not that I like jumpsuits a lot, but this is the fourth one I’ve made in the last 12 months. It’s another Closet Core Blanca. As always I made view A because it has long arms and sleeves and I am permanently cold. This time I used the patch pockets from view B on the chest instead of the zip pockets, but it’s not much of a variation. All the difference is in the colour and the topstitching. But if anyone wants to compare: black version, grey version, blue version.
This was a project inspired by the fabric: dark ochre stretch denim from Empress Mills. It’s bolder than I’d normally go for and I added contrast topstitching too. I didn’t have any black topstitching thread handy so it is all done in Gutermann Extra Strong, which is a weight between their Sew All and their Topstitch ranges. It makes a good bold line and comes in much bigger spools than the specialist topstitch thread; highly recommended. I used regular Sew All in yellow for the rest. I kept the yellow thread in the bobbin for topstitching to save time swapping out thread, but I do wish I’d switched to black in the bobbin when I sewed the zip in, as the yellow bobbin thread shows up on the black zip tape. It’s one of those things that doesn’t show from the front, but if I look down I can see the yellow stitching on the back of the tape and it bugs me. But not enough to rip out that zip and do it again. The stretch denim is a nightmare to put a zip into.
I used contrast hardware: a black zip with black plastic teeth, black buttons for the leg tabs, and a black belt buckle. The belt buckle isn’t a very satisfactory choice. The design means it needs to be under a bit of tension to stay closed, so my belt had to be made tighter than I’d like. The buckle is probably intended for elastic belts.
I shaved a tiny bit of height off the top of the trousers at centre back, and a little width off the back waistband, because I always seem to get a bit of bagginess there on this style. It’s helped somewhat. That big wrinkle in the picture is just the bottom of my t shirt. I couldn’t reduce the length much further, I’d never get in and out of it.
Despite yellow fabric and contrast stitching and hardware this has come out more muted than I expected. Hopefully that bodes well for getting lots of wear out of it. And I had a small fear it might come out like Kill Bill cosplay, which it hasn’t, so that’s a bonus.
I added the patch before I realised why the design seemed familiar; it’s the Versace logo. Oops. I ironed it on very thoroughly before stitching it down so I can’t easily remove it now. No one has commented in real life yet; I’m hoping the fact you need to be really quite close to notice the detail means this will continue. Same goes for my dreadful bar tacks on the pockets…everyone who said no one other than a very critical sewist would notice was right. I hardly see them myself now.
This jumpsuit means I’ve finally scratched my Blanca itch – four versions should keep me clothed for work for quite a while and I’m now keen to move onto more frivolous projects.
This is the pattern I’m currently making, vintage Vogue 1101 from 1982. And here are the cutting layouts for wide (150cm/60”) fabric, which is what I’ve got.
My heart sank when I saw them. Single layer and lots of big pieces needing to be cut twice, not to mention the front, back, and belt being provided only as half pieces but not cut on the fold. And the top front and back pieces are asymmetric and cut once. The layout doesn’t even have the virtue of being very efficient on fabric.
In the end I made up my own layout which let me cut the biggest pieces on the fold and I added a seam to the belt so I could cut four shorter pieces rather than two very long ones.
I did the contrast sleeves by folding the fabric right sides together along the cross grain, cutting along the fold, and turning the top piece around so I had two full width layers with right sides together and the nap running the same way. Then the sleeves can be cut on a double layer.
It’s coming on nicely now but I doubt I’ll be making this one again any time soon.
Time for another sewing plan. This one’s different from my previous efforts. Sewing my way through three wardrobe plans over the last couple of years has shown that what works best for me is to create entire outfits, rather than individual pieces that can theoretically be mixed and matched in lots of ways.
Lately I’ve been finding myself much less inspired by sewing pattern releases than I used to be. But I often browse Vogue Runway and there are two recent Saint Laurent ready to wear collections which I keep going back to: Spring 2022 and Spring 2023. I’m aiming to sew four outfits inspired by my favourite looks from those shows.
The first one is this stunning all-blue outfit, look 51 from Spring 2022. Here the main inspiration is the colour rather than the silhouette. You won’t catch me with bare ankles other than in the height of summer.
I already have a royal blue cropped jumper so I’m planning to make trousers to match, ideally a repeat of a pattern I’ve already made. I’m thinking high waisted, wide legged and floor length.
The Spring 2022 show had a number of surprisingly wearable jumpsuits. Look 39 is my favourite. It even has pockets. Those little pocket flaps at the waist are just decorative, but there are slanted hip pockets and the detail shots show back welt pockets too. The closure is interesting: the overlap of the fly extends across the centre front line and there’s a button closure in the waist seam. The sleeves are three-quarter length and the shoulders look very padded.
I have an old Burda magazine pattern with very similar lines that I am hoping to adapt to have the crossover fly. The Closet Core Blanca, which I’ve made several times now, will hopefully be a useful guide for getting the shape right on the bottom half because it’s similarly close fitting.
I love the shape of look 44 from Spring 2022: a minidress with a v neck, long sleeves worn pushed up, and very strong shoulders. The colour’s spectacular too, although I might go for purple rather than orange in my version. In the show this dress was worn with a brown layer peeking out underneath at the hem, but I’ve found the same dress on Matches Fasion’s online shop and there’s no sign of the extra layer there.
I have some 80s Vogue patterns with similar strong shoulders that could be adapted to become this style; Vogue 1308 which I used for my yellow 80s dress is one of the candidates. The original Saint Laurent garment is made from something called ‘wool grain de poudre’, which seems to be a type of suiting, but I see this working best for me made up in a heavy doubleknit and worn with thick tights and trainers or boots.
A dress with a hood is so dramatic and the Spring 2023 show had plenty. However the versions in the show are going to require some serious adaptation to work for everyday wear; they were somewhat sew through and often backless too. Look 8, below, is one of the tamer ones.
I’m intending to make a slim fitting knit dress, probably from Vogue 8866, an old tried and trusted pattern sadly now out of print, and add a separate hood piece borrowed from this 80s pattern in my stash, vintage Vogue 1439.
And because I want to be able to wear it out of the house it’s definitely being made out of ponte. I’m thinking navy blue or a dark grey.
I may not do all of these in a row – in fact I want to make up the 80s Dior pattern I’ve already cut out the fabric for before I can even start on these – but I’m looking forward to stretching my pattern adjusting skills on them over 2023.
Last year I made two more Closet Core Blanca jumpsuits to take my total to three. And now I’m working on number four. This one is in dark yellow stretch denim. The colour alone makes it a lot more in-your-face than my previous black, grey and blue affairs, so I doubled down on that with contrast top-stitching. This needs to be really accurate to look good and at first it was going fairly well: the back has come out nicely.
The pattern mentions sewing bartacks to hold the front hip pockets in place ‘if your machine will cooperate’. I didn’t bother on my previous versions, but on this one I needed to hide a top-stitching wobble on one pocket so gave it a go. My machine did not, in fact, cooperate. They’re very uneven – weirdly the width is inconsistent which I don’t understand at all – and you should see the mess on the back. I’m relying on the fact that most people don’t look closely, as unpicking it now will probably not improve the effect.
And I also added a patch to one of the breast pockets. This Medusa is a decent colour match and seemed highly appropriate for me; anyone who’s been following this blog for a while knows I have a bad case of resting bitch face. I realised after I’d ironed it on and sewed it down that the vaguely familiar design is actually a copy of the Versace logo. Not what I intended at all. Too late now.
I’m quite pleased with the buckle I found for the belt though. I wanted metal and matt black, which was surprisingly difficult to track down.
I’ve come too far with this not to finish it now, but I do wonder whether the final effect will be tragedy or triumph. Watch this space.