Shapeless but cozy: vintage Vogue 1071 flannel dress

This was the wrong time of year to make a thick flannel dress. It’s going to be a great option later in the year but right now the UK is having its annual two weeks of summer so I put it on just for these photos.

The pattern is vintage Vogue 1071 by Claude Montana, dating from 1982. I have found some pictures of the original from an auction site which show it made up in black wool knit with leather panels, but Vogue’s instructions also recommend wovens, including flannel, and the version on the pattern envelope looks to have suede panels.

Photo of vintage Vogue 1071 pattern envelope

I made mine up in black cotton flannel from Empress Mills. It is a lovely fabric to touch: really thick and fuzzy. In fact it was a little on the heavy side for this pattern. I also bought a length of black polyester suede to do the panels, but when the fabrics arrived I realised the texture of the flannel was so similar to suede that the panels would be effectively invisible, and didn’t bother adding them.

This is a nicely drafted pattern – everything goes together well – but it’s not what I think of as a typical Montana style, probably because it’s an early one. There are no shoulder pads and no shaping. The back is completely plain.

It does have one Montana feature: plenty of pockets. There are a pair of very roomy ones hidden in the side seams, which is where in practice I’ll put my stuff, and also two breast pockets. Those are fancy welt pockets with flaps and were a pain in the neck to construct because they’re so wide and deep their seam allowances encroach on the front placket. But if I ever need to carry more than the side seam pockets can accommodate I have room to do it.

I’ve found the older Vogues run much more true to size than the modern ones: ie I need to make the size the size chart says, instead of one or two down. However they’re also single size patterns, and my copy of this one is two sizes smaller than I am. I checked the finished pattern measurements for bust, waist, and hip, determined that there was so much design ease that I’d fit into the smaller size with room to spare, and made it up without adjustments other than for length. What I didn’t think to check was the cuff circumference, and they’re a little tight. Not unwearably so, but I definitely need to undo them to get my hands though.

Thanks to my husband for the photos.

Back to the 80s: vintage Vogue 1767 trousers

Back to the 80s with another vintage Vogue pattern. These are the trousers from Vogue 1767 from 1986 by Claude Montana. They’re very much the tapered shape I remember being in style back then. Here’s the line art. I made view A, with the turnups, but the turnups don’t show in the photos.

I thought at first that the pattern had a lot of pleats at the waistband to produce the shape. In fact the body is gathered into the waist. I’m not totally sure about the effect of the gathering. They look like tracksuit bottoms to me, only because they’re made in a non stretch fabric they don’t have the same comfort factor. Mine aren’t even as gathered as they should be. Although based on the finished garment measurements, the pattern ought to have fitted me out of the packet (widthways anyway) it was tight on the waist when I first tried it on. I cut a longer waistband and reduced the gathering to fit it in order to give myself a bit of breathing room, otherwise these would not have been wearable.

Other than the turnups there’s almost no detail so they’re a very quick project. Just four pattern pieces: there isn’t even a fly guard. They also make use of Vilene waistband stiffener so there isn’t any interfacing to cut out. I remember my mum telling me how great pre-cut waistband stiffening is when I first started sewing, and she’s absolutely right. Putting the waistband on was a doddle and it’s probably the most even waistband I have ever made.

The pockets are bog standard inseam pockets, which I often find don’t work brilliantly on trousers because things fall out when I sit down. These ones are deep and the gathers give them plenty of expansion room, so they’re better than those in some trousers I’ve made with this pocket style (looking at you, various Burda designs). But I have lost my phone once already because it slipped out when I was slouching on the sofa. I should add a button and loop.

Apart from increasing the waist the only fitting adjustment I made was to add my usual 5cm to the length. I probably should have reduced that, they’re meant to be more cropped. I also made a small style adjustment, swapping the waistband button for a trouser hook. This style is meant to be sleek so I didn’t want one of my typically hairy buttonholes showing on the outside. I did put a button on the inside of the waistband for extra security.

I’m on the fence about the style. They certainly exaggerate a pear shape. I wouldn’t normally wear them with a close fitting top like I am in most of the photos; that’s just so you can see what I’m going on about with the waist. They look good with a big baggy shirt on top though, which is a very 80s look.

They are made in Empress Mills gaberchino which feels on the lightweight side for trousers to me, but on the other hand I didn’t want something heavy because of the gathers. The pattern envelope says to use ‘double knit, gabardine, or twill’. Because double knit is first in the list that likely means it’s what the designer original was made from, but if you’re using knit why bother with a fly? Just put elastic in the waistband.

And just for laughs here they are with the coat from the same pattern.

All the details: Vintage Vogue 1652 innards and wearability

I’ve been banging on about this dress for weeks but this is the last post about it, I promise. It’s an old Vogue pattern from 1985, number 1652 by Claude Montana.

My version is made in black satin-backed crepe. Here’s a quick reminder of what it looks like.

It turned out to be one of the most difficult projects I’ve done in a while. The style looks simple – raglan sleeves, wrap front, hood, a few pleats. But the the pleats and the edge finishes are very fiddly and there are also some clever tucks at the neck that are sewn differently on each side of the dress. The instructions for those are technically correct. The facings on the inside of the dress have the ‘right side’ of the contrast fabric visible. And as it’s ‘contrast fabric’ not ‘lining fabric’, the pattern diagrams use the standard ‘right side of main fabric’ colour for all diagrams of the tucks whether they’re shown from the inside or the outside the dress, rendering the two sides completely indistinguishable. Like I said, it’s technically correct. And of course I sewed the right-hand side tucks inside out the first time because I interpreted the diagram wrong. As soon as I put the dress on it was clear they were wrong though, and it was easy to fix.

And now for some pictures of the details.

The pleats are made over the seams in the hood and sleeves and then held in place by stitching in the ditch. I didn’t think it through and didn’t finish my seam allowances before making the pleats, and afterwards it’s almost impossible to do. Doesn’t matter on the hood, because it is lined, but the sleeves aren’t. This picture also shows the top-stitching on the raglan sleeve seams, which seems to be there purely to hold the neck facing down. At least, it looks exactly like the sort of thing I often do to tame an unruly facing, only I stitch in the ditch to try to hide it rather than making it a feature. I’d always assumed this was a lazy shortcut that could be avoided if I pressed the facings a bit better, but here it is on a serious designer garment so I’m feeling pleasingly vindicated now.

The centre back and side seams are flat felled to give a nice clean interior finish. The hems are tiny, no fun at all to sew in bouncy polyester crepe. I presume this finish matches the one on the original garment, but I’ve reason to think that was made in wool doubleknit so a narrow hem wouldn’t be an easy option there either. Mysterious. If I ever make this again I might increase the hem allowance.

The sleeves are finished with real opening cuffs which is a nice touch. They’re very skinny though, or else I have big hands.

Another couple of unusual features below: the velcro closure on the front and the method of joining the facings to the body. The facings are stitched to the body wrong sides together, then the facing edges are are trimmed back close to the stitch line and the outer layer turned in to make a narrow hem over the top of the facing. This was a very slow, fiddly process involving lots of hand basting. It’s completely impossible to turn the hem in neatly where the edge has a concave curve, and the pattern provides a helpful extra piece to sew on along that section to form the hem instead. It’s just about visible in the picture. They call it a ‘gusset’, which I always thought of as something that goes into an armscye or crotch seam. Yes it’s wonky. This is the best I could do after much unpicking and retrying, and it’s not very visible when worn.

Sarah Webb (@sarahjw70 on Instagram) sensibly suggested attaching the facings the conventional way and then top-stitching instead. I wish I had followed her advice! The finish above makes for a flat and well-behaved edge with an attractive border of the outside fabric on the contrast side, but it took a whole evening and I think the normal way would be quite acceptable, especially if the inside isn’t a dramatically contrasting colour.

Here’s a couple of photos of the inside at the top. There’s a little button there for a thread loop on the top corner of the underneath of the wrap to hook onto, so there’s no danger of the wrap front revealing anything it shouldn’t at the top.

After a day of wear I got annoyed by the lapel of the outer front flapping about when the hood was down, so added a tiny hook and eye on the other side to hold that in place too. That front isn’t shifting anywhere now.

And here’s the inside of those amazing sleeves. Thick shoulder pads, and a bit of wadding tacked to my shamefully unfinished seams to help the sleeves keep their very curved shape.

And that’s it. I did wear it to work one day, and no one noticed! Not sure if that means it’s less out there than I thought or they were all being very polite. Anyway it’s wearable for days when all I’m doing is sitting at a desk. It needs a wide elastic belt to make it sit right with this slippery fabric – I tried with a webbing belt and it slid everywhere. And it’s very warm.

My next project is a very plain Burda sweater with only four pattern pieces that I’ve made before. It’ll be a nice change.

Channeling my inner Grace Jones: vintage Vogue 1652 by Claude Montana

A woman wearing a black hooded dress, sunglasses, and boots poses in a wood. The dress has elaborate sleeves and a wrap front.

This dress is the least practical item in my 80s wardrobe plan but definitely the most 80s. It’s vintage Vogue 1652, a design by Claude Montana from 1985. Here’s the envelope art.

A photograph of a vintage sewing pattern envelope. On the left is a photo of a model wearing a black and brown hooded dress with the hood up, on the right a sketch of a woman wearing the same dress in yellow with the hood down.
Vogue 1652 from 1985 envelope art

I have searched and searched but haven’t found any contemporary images of this style other than the Vogue Patterns envelope photo. My best guess is that it is from the Montana autumn/winter 1984/1985 collection because that one contained several dresses and coats with similar pleating details on the arms, and at least one wrap dress with a hood, but the exact style remains elusive. The Vogue pattern itself was published in 1985 so the date is plausible.

It’s very reminiscent of the hooded dresses Grace Jones wore in A View To A Kill, also from 1985, although of course hers were by Alaïa.

A woman wearing a black hooded dress, sunglasses, and boots poses in a wood. She is looking over her shoulder.

My dress is made in black satin-backed crepe from Croft Mill. At the time of writing it’s still available here. I used the satin side for the contrast facings. I got very lucky with this one because I didn’t order quite enough fabric to cut the facings wrong side up, but Croft Mill sent such a generous cut that it all worked out. I only have scraps left.

A woman wearing a black hooded dress, sunglasses, and boots walks towards the camera. The satin dress lining is visible.

Here’s the back view. This really shows off those 80s shoulders. There are extra thick pads in there, and I added some wadding lower down to help the sleeve keep its shape. It’s not all padding though because they looked huge even before the pads went in. It’s the cut of the sleeve and shoulder that does it.

A woman wearing a black hooded dress stands with her back to the viewer. The dress has pleats on the hood and sleeves, and large shoulder pads.

The hood is surprisingly flattering and stays put very well. But here is the dress with it down. The big lapel doesn’t sit so well in this position.

A woman wearing a black dress, sunglasses, and boots stands looking to one side. The dress has a large satin lapel.

I added my usual 5cm length to the bodice and sleeves, and another 5cm to the skirt length, which it definitely needed to end in the same place as on the model. The hem allowance is 15mm so there’s no possibility of letting it down later if it’s too short.

This was a single size pattern so I also added a bit to the width below the waist. I normally trace a size larger on the hips in a multi size pattern so none of this was a surprise. I wasn’t quite sure if I should make the wrap front wider or not as I was adding to the hips. I did, and it seems to have worked OK. I can’t say it sits in place perfectly because it’s a narrow wrap skirt in a slippery fabric so of course it has its moments, but it’s not unwearable.

I am intending to make a belt to go with this from a Burda pattern, but in these photos I’m wearing a purchased one. It was a lucky find because it has a certain similarity to the one on the pattern envelope photo.

A woman wearing a black dress, a
wide belt, and sunglasses adjusts her hair. She is standing in a wood.

So the question is will I actually wear this? It’s a lot of look but it’s also a lot of fun, and unlike many fancy dresses I’ve made it’s comfortable. With a black slip underneath even the slightly fussy skirt isn’t a problem. The one thing it lacks is pockets. I’ve been wearing a pouch clipped onto my belt to deal with that. I’ll have to try it at work and see. I suspect it might also be wearable as a jacket over trousers.

Thanks to my husband for the photos.

Slogging away

I’ve been busy for the last few weeks on this vintage Vogue pattern by Claude Montana, 1652 from 1985. I haven’t been able to find a photo of this one other than the pattern envelope, but it’s gloriously 80s.

The pattern envelope picture doesn’t show the back but those pleats in the sleeves are repeated on the hood.

I had a lot of trouble deciding on fabric for this. Depending on fabric it could vary between very dressy and very casual. I have a persistent mental image of this made up in grey sweatshirting with a brightly coloured lining, but I fear that would look too much like a dressing gown to be wearable out of the house; I don’t want to be thrown out of the supermarket for being improperly dressed. Aiming to avoid that effect I went for the polar opposite with satin backed crepe.

The dress is double layered in the hood and the deep front facings which turn out to form a lapel on the right front, and can be made in a contrast fabric. My plan was to use the satin side of the fabric as the contrast.

Cutting this out was a challenge. The pattern pieces are huge and asymmetric; it has to be cut on a single layer. In addition I hadn’t thought very carefully about my decision to use the wrong side of the fabric for the facings, and bought the amount of fabric required for the version of the dress without contrast facings. When I came to lay out the pattern pieces I realised that I needed extra length to cut the facings wrong side up. The fact that I’d also lengthened the dress by 10cm made it worse. Luckily Croft Mill had sent an exceptionally generous cut of fabric – there was something like an extra half metre – and I just managed it.

Here’s a closeup of those sleeve pleats. The sleeves on this dress are distinctly odd and I haven’t yet decided if it’s intentional design or just slightly annoying to wear. Maybe both? I measured the sleeve and decided they would probably come up long, but lengthened them anyway because self doubt, which is why my trousers have very deep hems.

I’m glad I added the length because even with the extra the sleeves seem to settle with the cuffs higher than I’d expect. Looking at the pattern photo I am still not sure what the intended length is. The model in the photo has her sleeves pushed up to accommodate her long gloves, and the one in the sketch has one arm partly behind her back and the other one so foreshortened by the angle that I can’t tell where the sleeve ends.

Here’s the back of the hood. This pattern is very difficult to get a sense of on a dress form. It needs a head and arms to sit right.

But as yet the facings and closures aren’t attached so this is the best I can do. There’s a lot still to do, including making a narrow hem all the way around the front edges in fabric that doesn’t press nicely. I may be some time on this one.

Tudor cosplay (Vintage Vogue 1476 coat modelled)

In the unlikely event I ever need to dress up as Henry 8th I’m all set. This is my coat made from an 1980s Issey Miyake pattern, worn over a dress made from another 1980s pattern, but the whole effect is strangely Tudor. I think it’s the big shoulders and the colour. The dress has 80s shoulder pads which are contributing.

This is the pattern envelope, vintage Vogue 1476 from 1984. Mine is made up in purple wool mouflon from Croft Mill. It’s lovely fabric: light but very warm and has a slightly fuzzy right side. At the time of writing it’s still available here. It’s got a certain similarity to fleece. I think you could make a cracking version of this coat pattern out of fleece, and as a bonus it could be machine washed. I’d avoid heavy coating fabrics. The pattern envelope says ‘wool knits, lightweight tweed, and double knit’ which isn’t super specific: wool knit can mean lightweight jersey or heavy boiled wool amongst others. I would not want to make this out of either of those. Tweed would work, ponte would work, and I’ve seen a great linen version.

The coat is very oversized. I added 5cm at the hem because I’m tall, but I think I needn’t have. I didn’t bother lengthening the sleeves at all – or rather was far too lazy to trace the enormous pattern pieces to make the necessary adjustment – and they’re fine. Normally I add 5cm to sleeves too.

It’s good for twirling. But mainly I find I have worn this around the house when it’s a bit chilly; it’s great for snuggling up in. I’ve fallen asleep under it more than once.

When I was looking for fabric for this project I didn’t initially consider purple. It’s not one of my usual colours (admittedly, until a few months ago my usual colours were confined to black, white, grey, and silver). I’m glad I ended up with this though. It goes particularly well with the yellow dress here but also works with grey, white, and silver clothes. It’s a bit on the sombre side over an all black outfit unless combined with some brighter accents.

While I’m tempted to make other versions I think realistically I only need one of these. It takes up a lot of space in the wardrobe. I think it could be a good one to make as a present though, as there’s next to no fitting involved. And if you’re making it out of fleece then almost any colour the recipient might want is going to be available.

It has one downside which is that the roomy pockets are difficult to locate in all the folds of fabric, leading to much inelegant rummaging. And I wish I’d added a loop for hanging it. I always regret it when I leave that out of outerwear. But overall it’s a success.

Thanks to my husband for taking the pictures.

An elaborate blanket: constructing Vogue 1476

A dressform wearing a purple draped coat stands in front of bookcases. The coat is vintage Vogue 1476 by Issey Miyake.

Here’s my finished Vogue 1476 coat. It’s an Issey Miyake design from 1984. This one is a real classic – I think it was in the Vogue patterns catalogue for over 20 years. I don’t know exactly when it went out of print but it was before I started buying Vogue patterns so I had to buy my copy second hand.

Vintage Vogue 1476 envelope art

Like a lot of the Issey Miyake patterns Vogue produced the pattern cutting on this one is unconventional. Any unlined coat is topologically equivalent to a sheet with two holes in it to put your arms through. I once made a McCalls waterfall cardigan pattern that was literally a flat rectangle of fabric with two armholes cut out and sleeves attached to them. The Vogue is obviously much more sophisticated than that; there’s some shaping and the sleeves are an impressive batwing shape rather than tubes; but there’s a resemblance.

You start off with a big rectangle of fabric with an irregular chunk cut out. The first seam transforms that into a loop. Here’s the big piece folded in two along the edge at the bottom of the picture: those short horizontal edges towards the top left are the ones that get sewn together to make the loop.

Then you hem the whole thing all the way around the outside, mitring the corners. There’s nine metres of hem so it takes a while. Vogue suggests neatly turning 6mm of the raw inside edge of the hem under and then topstitching it down with two rows from the right side. I wasn’t confident of doing that neatly in bouncy wool coating so I left the inside edge flat and trimmed it close to the topstitching afterwards. The fabric doesn’t fray and I think it looks all right. Whatever hem finish is used needs to look neat because it shows when the coat is worn.

Next the two yoke/sleeve pieces are joined together, and then the long edges of the joined yoke/sleeve piece are sewn along the inner edges of the main loop and topstitched three times. There’s a certain amount of pivoting around the angles in the edges; you can see one of the angles in the picture below.

If you’ve done it right there are two small sections of the main loop edge left unsewn which form holes for your wrists to go through, one at the end of each sleeve, and you attach facings to finish those. Simple!

Of course it’s not so simple in practice: the sheer size of the pattern pieces makes sewing it a challenge. I spent a lot of time stopping and adjusting the huge pile of fabric so it fed smoothly. My machine doesn’t have a ‘stop with needle down’ function and it’s the first time I’ve ever really wanted it.

It’s vital to mark and match the notches and circles on the seams between the main pattern piece and the sleeve/yoke pieces so they end up correctly aligned. I couldn’t go by past experience to put this one together because the pattern pieces are such unusual shapes and they’re so big it’s difficult to see what’s going on anyway. The pattern illustrations are accurate but it’s hard to relate those neat drawings to the huge pile of crumpled fabric in front of you.

There’s a lot of topstitching involved. I had to wind three bobbins. I tried to keep it straight and consistently spaced by using my ditch stitching foot, which has a central blade which follows the line you’re targeting, and adjusting the needle position to one side to get evenly spaced rows. It worked pretty well but I failed to think about the order I stitched the rows in before starting, and more than once ended up having to sew with the bulk of the fabric to the right of the needle because my machine’s needle position will only adjust to left of centre.

I wish I’d done the centre back seam differently. I left the edges raw, topstitched down the seam allowances, but didn’t trim them back. The wrong side of this seam shows when the edge of the coat is folded back in wear, so it looks a bit untidy with that loose edge. I might have to go back with some sharp scissors and trim it. In a lighter fabric I’d flat fell the centre back seam. I’ve seen a great summer version of this pattern done in linen.

This is really more of a cardigan than a coat. It’s wonderfully warm and cosy but doesn’t have any closures. I think I’ll be wearing it around the house a lot though. Hopefully I’ll get some modelled pictures at some point.

The 80s called, they want their coat back: Vogue 1767

So here it is, my coat from a 1986 Claude Montana pattern, worn in 2022. Just for fun I’ve amped up the 80s styling with the scarlet lipstick and sunglasses. I haven’t been able to find any other images of the exact original design beside the pattern envelope photo below; however there are lots of similar brightly coloured Montana coat designs from 1985 and 1986 which are usually photographed styled in a similar way.

A sewing pattern envelope with a lot of wear. Thr cover art has a photo of a woman wearing a yellow coat and black trousers with turnups,and a sketch of a woman wearing the same style of coat in grey and black trousers without turnups.
Vintage Vogue 1767 pattern envelope (originally issued 1986)

I was trying to reproduce the pattern envelope pose here but now I look at it again it’s not quite right. It does show off the strong triangular shape of the coat though. I think this one was from the peak shoulder pad era.

A woman wearing a short oversized green coat, black dress and sunglasses, leaning forward. The coat has a single button visible and large patch pockets.

Disappointingly it’s less warm than I’d hoped. These pictures look like we took them on a warm day but it was bitterly cold despite the sun and I was freezing. The good news is it’s such an oversized style that I could easily fit a couple of sweaters underneath it. My pattern was a size larger than I’d normally make but I didn’t bother trying to grade it down as I didn’t think it would make much difference to the end result. The only pattern adjustments I made were to add my usual extra length to the body and sleeves and to extend the back half-lining into a full lining.

Back view of a woman wearing a oversized short green coat and black dress. The coat has vent and top stitched seams.

The lining is surprisingly discreet considering it’s bright pink. The facings of the coat are very deep so there isn’t a lot of it. I’m glad I went for the contrasting lining; I normally prefer to match the lining but I suspect I wouldn’t have found a similar green and the two colours do look good together.

A woman wearing a short green coat over a black dress. The coat is opened to reveal a bright pink lining

This shot just shows the edges of the fly that hides all the buttons except the top one.

Like the other Montana patterns I’ve made there’s an element, in this case diagonal lines, that occurs throughout the garment. The front closure, the bound buttonholes, all the pockets, the angle of the neckline are all slightly on the diagonal. It’s very harmonious.

What I didn’t like about the pattern was the order of construction suggested. For example, sewing the front facings on around the front edges all the way to the side seams, and then asking to attach the patch pockets to the front without sewing them through the facing layer. It makes much more sense to sew the pockets on before applying the facing. This is a much easier way to get the pockets on because the coat front naturally lies flat at that point. If the facing was already attached it would have to be turned to the outside to avoid sewing through it, and then you’d be trying to put the presser foot in between the facing and the coat front; the facing would get in the way and pull up on the front.

That wasn’t the only construction issue; I also had to rip out the under sleeve seam in order to topstitch the upper sleeve seam. In that case I can see that the cuff construction is easier with both seams sewn and the hem facing already turned in, but it’s not impossible to do it my way, whereas topstitching the upper sleeve with the whole thing already sewn into a tube definitely wasn’t happening.

I didn’t think I’d want to wear this open but it actually looks OK in this picture. I’ll have to experiment when the weather warms up (so June then…)

This was a bit of a stunt project; I loved the pattern but I likely wouldn’t have got round to making it if I’d had to buy new fabric. As it happened I had the green wool and the lining in stash, and no other plans for either of them. However it’s surprisingly wearable. It needs the right outfit underneath, so it won’t completely displace my beloved silver quilted coat, and it’s probably best for spring and autumn rather than the depths of a UK winter. I’m glad I made it. I’ll report back on how it wore later on the year.

Thanks to my husband for taking the pictures as always.

Slow progress

I’m still working on my 80s coat, which is from this Vogue pattern.

The original is only half lined so I decided to line the whole thing, and picked a very contrasting lining: a bright pink satin when the shell fabric is green (I had it in stash; in fact it was originally bought to use with the green coating fabric on a long abandoned project). But then I realised I’d need some more sober lining fabric for things like lining the patch pockets and the inside of the concealed button placket. And the green is proving impossible to match especially as in person fabric shopping isn’t happening at the moment. I have ended up with grey lining, again from the stash.

The first sewing job should have been the bound buttonholes. I’d never done these before and wondered how well they’d go in such a thick fabric. I was particularly concerned about what fabric to use for backing the hole as I don’t have anything that’s a good colour match to the shell fabric. After making some samples I found a bright green quilting cotton was the best because it pressed well enough that none of it was visible from the front, so the poor colour match didn’t matter.

I’ve finished the buttonholes and the front welt pocket, and finally started sewing the shell together. Feels like there’s a long way to go at the moment. My pile of fabric pieces still looks enormous. But I put what I’ve got on the dress form yesterday and the shape is amazing; it’s basically triangular. I may need even bigger shoulder pads than I thought.

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.