Jennifer dress

Hello! Here is my second iteration of Vogue 8811.

Gosh look how nice and even that waist is sitting! I get a gold star

I’m sorry these photos are so shocking. I went out two separate times to get them but still didn’t end up with good ones so I’m calling these good enough. I’m getting closer to figuring out appropriate times for good lighting, however, so hopefully they’ll improve.

I tend to like to make a pattern more than once. Partly this is because I always have to do so much fitting work that it feels like wasted effort if I just make a once-off. Also that you can never really be sure how something fits until you wear it, so I like to t ake a second crack at it – and I find I learn a lot about fitting that way, too. In this case I loved my first version so much that I was planning to make a second V8811 before I even blogged the first one.

I earmarked this blue broadcloth from my stash for it. It’s just from spotters, and I think I bought it intending to make a shirtdress. But it’s a bright enough blue that I thought it would probably come out a bit uniform-y so it was looking for the right project and I knew this simple bodice would avoid the uniform issue. But then… it’s a bit boring, right? It’s a nice colour but not in my usual palette so I wanted to do something to spiff it up.

I thought about adding some trim, as in view A, but honestly I’m not really a lace and ribbon kinda gal. Then I thought, that pocket has some opportunities! I have a pinterest board of embroidery ideas, many of which are vintage transfers, so I picked one I thought would work well with the fabric and started on it.

I mostly worked on it on my train commute and it went very quickly. I used machine embroidery stabiliser because my local stores didn’t have any proper hand embroidery stuff, and it didn’t 100% wash away which is why it looks a bit odd and stiff still. I think it will eventually dissipate and it’s not obvious except very close up. I used random colours I liked from my collection. The stems are stem stitch, the centres satin stitch, the leaves feather stitch and the petals grain stitch. Oh and the little cluster of french knots – I think I’ve FINALLY learnt how to do a consistent french knot, but I still don’t like doing them. I am now a bit addicted to embroidery – I forgot how fun it is! Except I need to find more useful and interesting things to stitch.

I did not, however, do a good job of sewing the pocket on. Oh, well. It’s not so obvious when worn so I’ll just live with it, although it does annoy me. Part of the issue is that the pocket is two pieces, sewn together and turned. The embroidered piece is on the bias since that’s what the pattern tells you to do but then I realised that’s only because if you’re using a plaid it’s a contrast. So I cut the backing on the straight grain but that was probably a mistake. Also the pattern has you turn it in a weird way – I was planning to leave the whole top unturned since that’s topstitched anyhow but the pattern has you turn it from the bottom which means you have to leave the opening quite small, so I couldn’t really do much about wonky edges. If I were doing this again I’d just do it my way.

I sewed the same size as last time (which started as a size 12). Changes I’d already made to the paper pattern included:

  • 2″ FBA
  • Added 3/4″ to side seams of bodice (so it was essentially a size 14 bodice).
  • Took up waist about 1″, losing a total of 2″ length from both the bodice and skirt
  • Lowered neckline 1″ at front neck tapering to nothing at front shoulders

I’d made the front 1″ larger last time but forgot to this time as I hadn’t made the extra addition to the pattern and I was cutting this out while sick. I also didn’t cut the skirt wider as the fabric was too narrow. I sewed the side seams at 1cm instead of 1.5cm to compensate for this.

This time I also:

  • Lowered the neckline a further 1/2″ all the way around, for a total of 1.5″ at front and 1/2″ at shoulder and back neck.
  • Sewed the armhole seam about 1cm higher so the armholes aren’t so gapey
  • Took 1cm off the top of the sleeves, tapering to nothing at the mid sleeve
  • Sorted out where the waistline should be.
  • Added a full lining instead of using facings.
  • Added pockets

Figuring out the waistline took a lot of basting and swearing but in the end what it amounted to was taking off 1″ from the centre front, tapering to nothing at the dart. This was pretty much what the FBA added that I had not dealt with properly. Naughty. I got my consequences though! I then took a further 1″ off the entire waist, front to back. I have read a few people saying it seemed long in the waist so perhaps it’s the pattern. I do have a long waist and it’s quite rare that I have to shorten a bodice unless I want it to hit above my natural waist. I must say I didn’t mind how it looked when it was a bit longer – it definitely had more of the 40’s long and lanky look (not that I will ever look lanky but you know what I mean… it had that feel to it) but it bunched up when I moved so it got taken up.

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This is before the last 1″ was taken out. It looks ok but you can just see it bubbling up. It was super obvious when I moved. Also note paint swatches on the boring grey wall behind me!

I also took the skirt up 1″ to make the waist wider, to compensate for not having cut it out wider. Consequently I only did a 1″ hem. I didn’t have to adjust the hem at all so I think my issues with the last one were the rayon stretching out after all. The broadcloth is pretty firm and hasn’t shifted on the bias but there’s still time! 😛

I lopped off 1cm from the top of the sleeve and straightened out the sleeve curve – the FBA had involved shifting that seam about a bit and I essentially just put it back as drafted. Again, should have already done that, very sloppy. I added pockets from B6285, which are my go-to pockets now – they’re an excellent shape and sit well in the side seams of a skirt. I also find they give a nice volume to a skirt, puffing it up a bit exactly where I want the volume. When I tried on my basted together version it hung quite limply, but with the pockets and the lining it fluffs up very nicely. Pleasing!

I fully lined it, and I really like how it is with a lining. I would definitely do this again next time. The bodice is bemsilk I think – it was from my stash – and the skirt is poly taffeta from Lincraft. This is now my favourite skirt lining, it gives a nice volume and is hefty enough not to try to sneak in between my legs when I walk. Plus it rustles nicely as I move, always a plus. The lining is my trusty self drafted 3/4 circle skirt/lining pattern but I probably could have just used the skirt pattern as it’s also a 3/4 ish circle. (A bigger circle will work it’s way between one’s legs in a very annoying way). The front waistline of the pattern is bigger than the back so I just very dodgily sewed the front lining up higher at centre front and didn’t bother evening out the hem. It hangs more or less right when worn, though. Good enough for a lining anyway!

I really love the colour of the lining taffeta. Trying to think of an excuse to make and wear a whole dress out of it…

I serged everything to finish before sewing it together. Lining hem is just serged, skirt hem is turned up and hand stitched. Sleeves and neck are understitched. The button is a loner from my stash – I thought I’d taken a better picture, it’s got swirls on it like a boiled sweet. I did the thread loop like the last one but I’ve made it too long and it keeps coming undone so I need to go back and fix that. The lining is tacked to the outer shell at the waist with the same thread loops.

I also am contemplating belt loops but it sits pretty nicely without them so we’ll see.

I don’t think you can really see it here but the only issue I have with this make is that it sits a little forward at the shoulder. I think I need to take another 1/2″ from the front neckline, for a total of 2″ off of it. If I pull it so that it sits where it would with a lower neck, it’s perfect – but the broadcloth is firm enough to prevent it sitting there whereas my last version the rayon sits there but just sits out from my collarbone.

I also want to put back the extra at the back neckline – I freehanded trimming that off and it was hard to taper to nothing because it’s quite a short seam so I’ll go back and adjust the pattern properly. I don’t think I’ll be making another of these immediately but I think it’s simple enough and it fits well enough that I see it becoming a TNT pattern, so I’ll retrace everything to have a proper, adjusted pattern ready to go.

When I’m wearing it without a belt, the dress feels like it’s pulling forward because of the too-high neckline. I could go back and take more out I suppose, but with a belt it sits ok. We’ll see how it wears. I do want to go back and take extra out of my Clarissa version because I have avoided wearing it a couple of times because the neck isn’t super comfortable. It’s fine but not great. A relatively easy fix, however!

I’m really thrilled with this one! It came out just like I had hoped. A rare treat! Despite having had a bit of trouble with this pattern, it was all self-induced, and the results were worth it!

Clarissa dress

Hello lovelies! I’ve missed you! I have miraculously managed to sew something in the last month, and I’m so keen to share it with you.

This is Vogue 8811, in the rayon I bought in Bali.

Description: Pullover dress has shoulder pads, semi-fitted bodice, French darts, bias, flared skirt, back keyhole closure with button/thread loop, side snap/extension or zipper closing, cap sleeves, and belt. A: Purchased trim. B: Bust pocket. Circa 1940

Recommended fabrics: Linen, Crepe de Chine, Lightweight Broadcloth

 

This one was a bit of a journey. I thought up this pattern and fabric combo while lying in bed desperately trying to stop thinking about work long enough that I could go to sleep (it’s been a BUSY month. I don’t usually think about work outside of work hours – one of the perks of my job is it stays at work). It was prompted by how much I love my Dorothy Lara dresses. I needed another dress that was weather appropriate for the late summer, and given how busy and stressful things have been I needed it to be easy to wear. I love those 50s and 60s silhouettes but it’s hard to beat the comfortable, functional ease of a ’40s dress. When I know I’ve got a rough day ahead and I want to feel and look good without having to put any thought into what I’m wearing throughout the day, I reach for my two DLs every time. I wanted more of that in my wardrobe!

I also wanted to use this fabric soon. It’s very on-trend, and I love it, but I was worried that if I left it in the stash too long it would look and feel dated and I wouldn’t want to sew it any more. So I wanted to figure out what to do with it soon.

I’ve had this pattern in my stash for some time, but I’d bought the wrong size. I had the size 4-12 size nest not the 12-18. Going by my measurements I would normally sew the size 14 , grading to a size 12 at the shoulders, with a 2″ FBA. I didn’t realise my size snafu until I was partway through cutting out the tissue pattern pieces. I figured it was a pretty simple shape, given that I would normally cut size 12 shoulders anyway perhaps I could just add on some width to the sides and do that FBA and call it good.

Pardon my mystery bruise. Looking pretty impressive though!

This sort of worked. The trouble is it has this cool waist dart – it’s angled and one side is curved and you ease it together to create extra shape. It’s REALLY interesting, and makes the bodice sit really nicely, and it’s also quite hard to do an FBA on! I’m not at all sure I did it right and I probably should have sewn it up without the FBA first so I knew what it was meant to be like. However, after the FBA and cheaters grading up, I had a muslined bodice that looked pretty good and sat right, so I cut out the fashion fabric.

The ‘grading’ involved adding 1″ to the front and 3/4″ to the back of both bodice and skirt. I also lowered the front neckline by 1″ at the neck tapering to nothing at the shoulder seam.

By the way, my lovely blue wall now has a bed in front of it so I’m auditioning new photo locations. The best options were this boring grey-blue wall in my craft room with one million powerpoints on it, or outside. Outside worked well but I think it would have been better if I’d waited an hour because I had trouble finding a good spot in regards to the sun and so I only got a few good photos. I’ll work on it.

Anyhow. The dress. So I sewed it all up and tried it on and it was HORRID.

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Noooooo I was not trying to sew a caftan! Or a mumu

The FBA had added length in a weird way, and the rayon was quite droopy and the waist was totally uneven and also way lower than it should be and dipped drastically at the front. Ack! I unpicked it and laid out the bodice and just hacked it off even at the bottom. I’d say there was about 4″ extra at the centre front! Then there was some back and forth of basting and unpicking of seams in a totally unscientific way that will come back to bite me if I ever make it again because I didn’t really write down what I was doing because I did it in bits and pieces over a couple of weeks in a period where I was very stressed and frazzled.

What I ended up with was a dress where (after said hacking off evenly) I took about 1″ off the waist seam – I just sewed that seam at a larger width so it ended up taking the skirt up too. I also took almost all of the width I’d added in at the side seams back out again although I did keep most of it in the seam allowances so that I can let it out if the rayon shrinks up. I think in a firmer fabric I might still need the width, but in the rayon and with such a busy print, it just looked frumpy and saggy. The pattern had instructions for either a hand picked zipper or an extension with snaps, but I found that I could just pull it over my head quite comfortably so I just sewed up the sides. Again, probably wouldn’t be possible in a firmer fabric but works really well for this.

I was going to add pockets in but with all the adjusting I ended up serging one of the skirt side seams shut and I couldn’t be bothered unpicking it. I really would like pockets because the neck is so high I can’t access my alterna-pocket (aka my bra). But then pockets in rayon are a bit less functional anyway, so dunno.

The waist seam is still a bit wonky, and I’m not sure if it’s my terrible hacking of the pattern, or just the way the rayon is hanging. The bra I’m wearing also really changes how this hangs – I guess because it’s such full coverage, the position of my bust point totally changes the drape of the bodice. Yet another lesson in wearing my good bras to sew in.

Those issues are lost in the busy print though so I’m not too fussed. Also I’ll probably always wear this with a belt anyway which covers some sins, although it would benefit from some belt carries to keep it in place. The pattern has pattern pieces for a belt and I was going to make a black one but I don’t have an appropriate buckle so for now it’s this white one or nothing. I like the way the white lightens it up though.

The sleeves have facings and I HATE them. Hate. They’re flippy and chunky and terrible. I also think I need to take 1cm off the top of the sleeves and that would reduce the amount they stick up. If/when I make this again I’ll either line it like Tanya did, or bias bind them. The pattern includes pieces for shoulderpads, so perhaps that would change the angle of the sleeves? I chose not to make them although I would like to have a go some time just to see how it’s done.

Hateful

This pattern has a bunch of nice vintage touches that I really appreciated – it’s one of the reasons that I rarely buy newly drafted patterns. I have or can hack most things from my existing pattern stash, but I always learn a lot about technique or elegant drafting from vintage (repro) patterns. That said, the instructions did have you press down the seam allowance on the waist and then top stitch it to the bodice from the right side, which I tried but found totally bizarre and almost impossible to keep straight. Is there a reason for doing it this way? When I was making my adjustments I unpicked it and did it the regular way.

The neck facing I like though. It’s really neat and well drafted, even if I did also have to hand tack it down.

If I make this again I’ll take an extra 1/2″ off the neck all the way round (but not at the back neck). I like how it sits at the back of my neck but it’s sitting too high up otherwise, and in a stiffer fabric would be uncomfortable. It’s ok in this but it does bunch a little and in wearing it sits away from my collarbone a little bit.

I also sewed the side seam/armholes up higher, because they were pretty gapey under my arms. I probably should adjust the pattern to take them up even higher next time, I think. I liked that the pattern had quite an angular curve for the sleeve – a mod I usually have to make myself for cut on sleeves. The sides do pull a little but that’s the tradeoff you make for a cut on sleeve.

The sides pulling make the back hem look like it’s hanging too low in a lot of these photos. It’s even on the hanger – I hung it for a week and the hem didn’t seem to grow but then once I hemmed it it was way lower front and back. I liked the length though so I went back and hemmed the sides shorter so it is now even. However when i move around it pulls up an inch or so on the sides, making the back in particular look low.

I think I’ll give it some time to see if it grows any more and then take it up again at the back. Even if it is technically even when I’m standing totally still, the reality is that it will always hike up, so I may as well account for that from the get go.

The back neckline has a button and loop. I did a thread loop using this method, although it’s a little thin and hard to loop behind my head, next time I would use a double thickness. The button is from my stash and you can sort of almost kind of see it below. I do forget to unhook the button before trying to take it off 100% of the time. Because I am a fast learner…

I am so totally thrilled with this dress. I debuted it at work on Monday and it was so comfortable all day, and I felt so elegant and put together. I had several compliments and one person asked if I had ‘had it made’ and was blown away when I said I’d made it myself! (Side note, I am starting to feel more comfortable telling people I make all my own clothes. It feels nice, and I’ve never had anything but a positive reaction, and very little of the sort of bewildered or condescending praise I have been used to. Just people genuinely interested and impressed. It’s so lovely.)

I will definitely be making this pattern again. I’d love to find a good plaid to play with the grainlines – and the skirt is cut on the cross grain which means that even though it’s quite full you can cut it out of a narrow piece of fabric.

TL;DR What I made:

  • Vogue 8811 in size 12
  • 2″ FBA
  • went back and chopped the bodice to be even (ish)
  • Added 1″ to side seams of front bodice and skirt, 3/4″ to side seams of back bodice and skirt (most of which was taken out again but which I would keep for a firmer fabric)
  • Took up waist about 1″, losing a total of 2″ length from both the bodice and skirt
  • Lowered neckline 1″ at front neck tapering to nothing at front shoulders

What I would do next time:

  • Line the bodice to eliminate sleeve facings
  • drop neckline a further 1/2″ all round tapering to nothing at the back neck
  • POCKETS!
  • Would probably be worthwhile muslining the bodice with no mods so I could see how the waist seam is supposed to look and what the curve should be so I can adjust my pattern and not have to keep fiddling with it to get it right.
I especially like these photos with the soft light that looks like a film photo on a cheap family camera. It reminds me of so many family photos taken in the garden.

I also thought a lot about the ‘dress like your grandma‘ challenge while sewing this. I won’t claim this for the challenge because this dress wasn’t inspired by the challenge so that would feel like cheating. But I couldn’t help thinking that probably the reason I like the fabric so much is that it’s very similar to the curtains in the ‘back room’ at my grandma’s house – the room which was a playroom and where we all slept when we slept over there. Lots of fond memories of that room, although I can’t seem to find a photo of the curtains.

In fact I don’t have a lot of photos of my grandma. There’s a family album somewhere but it never seems to be brought out even when I ask. In the last decade my grandma has lost her husband, two children and all her siblings so I get the impression she’s not keen to reminisce, so I haven’t pushed it. But all the photos I have of her she is wearing a dress in a similar cut to this – cut on sleeves, high neck, circle skirt, some kind of botanical print, and which she would have made herself.

Here she is with all her kids (if you include the youngest who she was pregnant with at the time so does that count?). She would have made her own dress and almost certainly all the clothes in this photo. My dad is the one in the front in the overalls with the excellent pout. He and his sister next to him on Grandma’s lap are both dead now. Judging by the ages this would be late ’60s.

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And here is my grandma with my cousin (the daughter of my aunt to the left of my Gma in the above pic) and I in about 1984.

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I’m the one awkwardly sliding off my cousin’s lap… I just realised that less time passed between those two photos than between the latest one and now. Wild!

As she and I get older I’m starting to have a deeper but also more complicated relationship with my grandma – I’m realising the ways in which she and I are very different, have different values and priorities. Not in a bad way, but in a way that complicates what has always been a relatively simple relationship for me. I get the impression she never really ‘got’ either my father or myself. But she didn’t have to to love us, and love us she did. I dunno, I’ve typed out and erased various comments several times, I don’t know that I can articulate what my grandma means to me as a person and as a relation. I do know it’s important.

I think a lot of (although not all) that draws me to vintage shapes and patterns is my association of them with her, with her elegance and class and sewing skills and love. Sometimes it feels very retrograde to like these clothes, and I worry about it and what it says about me, and what the world sees when they see me in these outfits which happen to be what I feel emotionally comfortable in. Especially in the recent political climate. And why IS it that I happen to be comfortable in them? I fluctuate between feeling tired of my own navel gazing and feeling it’s important to interrogate these things even if there’s never a final conclusion because it’s complex.

“All this could be perceived as nostalgia for an age of innocent exuberance. Indeed, this may be part of the story, but there is also the natural process of reappraising past etas, searching for inspiration, tracing social patterns and making sense of our origins” – Peter Cuffley ‘Australian Houses of the Forties & Fifties’