sewing classic fashions from mid-century patterns by fiftydresses. follow my adventures in sewing from these mid-century patterns (and the occasional new one, too!) and my observations about what I call the Golden Years of Fashion – the 1950s through the 1970s.
When is a sewing project really, really, finally finished? That was the question I was asking myself after I thought I had finished my Pink Coat, but then decided I had more to do. Or, more precisely, I had things to undo and then redo.
I had not noticed how crinkled the hem appeared until I saw these photos.
I had purposely steamed the hem lightly, not wanting to make it a knife edge, but after seeing these crinkles, I went back and steamed it again. I still had crinkles. My expectation at this point was that I would probably have to take the hem out and redo it. This suspicion was confirmed when I sought advice from Susan Khalje. She oh-so-gently agreed with me! First she suggested removing the silk organza from the bottom of the coat up to the fold line of the hem, and lightly catch-stitching it along the fold, which would not show. I did this after taking out all the stitching along the lining, the facings, and the seam allowances, in order to undo the hem.
The pins mark the fold line of the hem; as you can see, the silk organza underlining extends to the bottom edge of the coat.
I then pinned about a half inch above the hem line, so I was able to remove the silk organza right at the hem fold. I then used a catch-stitch to secure the silk organza right along the fold line.
Doing this helped, but the hem was still not as soft as I thought it should be. Susan’s next suggestion was to add a bias strip of flannel to the interior of the hem, which I suspected was what I had needed to do from the start. I went to my trusty Vogue Sewing Book from 1970 to get guidance and found this:
From: The Vogue Sewing Book, edited by Patricia Perry, Vogue Patterns, New York, New York, c1970, page 324.
I used all cotton white flannel, cut 2½ inches wide, the width of the hem. I positioned it so that ⅝“ was below the fold line, with the remaining above. I used a catch-stitch on the wider section of flannel, securing it to the silk organza. Then I did a loose running stitch right on the fold line. After every step, I gently steamed the area.
Obviously I had to take out the catch-stitching along the lower portion of the center back seam, and then I was able to slip the flannel under the seam allowance.
Then I was ready to put the hem back in, and reattach the facings and lining.
None of this was difficult, but it was time-consuming. However, I am much happier with the appearance of the hem now. It is soft and hangs with more grace.
A much smoother, softer hem!
Susan also suggested that I make an adjustment to the front edges of the collar. Although I had under-stitiched it, I apparently did not coax the front-edge seams back away from the edge enough, allowing them to show more than they should. So I took out a majority of the understitching and re–did it, too.
The collar lays flatter now, and I am really happy with it.
Needless to say, I was a bit discouraged that I was facing so much work to correct these problem areas, but I knew it needed to be done. I considered waiting until next Fall to tackle these fixes, but I decided I would feel less like doing it then than now, so I dug in. It became a good learning experience, and a good reminder that different fabrics behave in different ways. It is up to the dressmaker to seek out the best solution for a problem area and then do it, or in this case, re-do it. Hooray, the Pink Coat is finally – really – finished.
Or, is it? Fashion terminology tends to be very precise and descriptive, so I was not surprised when I discovered all the various stripes that can be described in specific terms. What prompted my interest in stripes was my most recent addition to my casual blouse wardrobe.
There is something just so classic about navy blue and white, and a navy and white striped shirt is almost a necessity. When I saw this Italian cotton shirt fabric on the website of Farmhouse Fabrics, I wasted no time in ordering it.
Farmhouse Fabrics has the most amazing selection of fine shirting cottons, and their service is superb!
I place stripes in the same category as checks and polka dots – timeless, varied and versatile. When I did a little exploring into the nomenclature of stripes, to confirm my thought that this was a “pencil stripe” on which I was working, I not only found this to be correct, I also was introduced to a whole descriptive world of stripes. There are awning stripes, bayadere stripes, candy stripes, chalk stripes, hickory (or Liberty) stripes, ombre stripes, pinstripes, regimental stripes, ticking stripes, and the list goes on and on. What designates a pencil stripe is that the background color (for example, white) between the stripes is wider than the stripes in the foreground color (navy blue), which can be as narrow as a pencil line, or bolder.
This is the fifth blouse I have made in the last year, using this simple pattern from 1972, and I would not be surprised to find myself making five more of this style.
The many alterations and refinements I have made to this pattern include 1) a shoulder adjustment to give more ease at the top of the sleeve, 2) an inverted pleat in the center back, mimicking a detail on a RTW which I particularly like, 3) fisheye darts in the back of the bodice to tame some of its fullness, 4) lengthening of the sleeve placket, making it easier to roll up the sleeves, and 5) re-cutting of the collar from pointed ends to a spread collar.
I particularly like the way this collar looks.
Every one of these blouses needs buttons, of course, and as long as I keep finding vintage buttons like these, I will keep using them.
Ultra Kraft made quality buttons. I feel so fortunate to have access to so many of their beautiful buttons on eBay and Etsy.
I tend to wear my sleeves rolled up, more often than down.
A very windy day, but the sun is shining!
How much summer sewing do I see on the horizon???
There is not much more which can be said about this blouse. I expect to wear it casually all summer long, which is a lovely thought indeed.
Is it possible to fall in love with a coat? If so, then that is what has happened with my pink coat. It was a relationship which grew over several years.
First, I found the pattern, this Vogue Paris Original Designer Pattern from 1965. It was an eBay purchase made several years ago, with a promise to myself that one day, when I found the right fabric, I would make it.
Next I found this silk charmeuse couture fabric on the website of Mendel Goldberg Fabrics. It was an end cut, 2.25 yards, and when I purchased it, I envisioned another wrap dress, not the lining of a coat. Luckily I had no urgent plans to use it, and thus it eventually found its way inside the pink coat.
I am showing the lining silk here along with the pink wool to show how well they complement each other.
And then – I found the pink wool. Also an eBay purchase, this wool was not inexpensively priced, but I recognized its rarity and its “presence” in the posted pictures. Then I hoped it would live up to its promise once I received it and saw it in person. Over the years I have found some amazing things on eBay, but this wool is one of the real treasures.
Because I have already posted quite a bit about the coat’s muslin/toile and certain salient details, I will not go into too much more description about the coat’s construction. But I do want to point out some of this pattern’s engineering charms.
1) On the photo on the pattern envelope, I believe the soft shoulder of the coat is evident. I used a “cigarette-type” sleeve heading in each shoulder to enhance the smooth transition from the shoulder to the top of the sleeve. Not so evident on the pattern illustration is the drape of the back of the coat from the shoulder line. I realized this drape works so well because of the two neckline darts. They are in the neckline, not the shoulder seam; they add necessary shaping without disturbing the drape.
Can you see how the dart comes off from the neckline, not the shoulder seam?
2) The collar is an engineering marvel in my mind. The under-collar is constructed from four pieces, two main sections cut on the bias, and a 2-piece collar band, seamed at the center back. The band helps the collar to turn beautifully.
This photo clearly shows the components of the under-collar. You can also see the under-stitching I did in silk buttonhole twist.
3) When I made the toile, I was concerned about the fullness of the back of the coat. It seemed a bit much, and I have already written about my intention to add a half belt to draw in the fullness, if needed. Nope! I am so happy with the finished look – it has that 1960s’ vibe without being overwhelming. I did move the vertical back seam line up 1.25” to rest at my natural waistline, rather than below it. For me, this was the correct alteration. It may not be on someone else who has more height than I do. Another consideration was that a half belt would have concealed the seam detailing which is so lovely on the back of the coat.
An inside look at the back of the coat, showing its drape from the shoulder seams.
The other significant alteration I made was to remove 1.5″ of width from each sleeve. I possibly could have taken out even more, but I will be wearing this coat over sweaters and perhaps even a jacket, so the sleeves as I cut them will still accommodate that bulk. But I would not want them any fuller!
Although the pattern did not call for it, I added flat piping to the edge of the lining. I chose white silk crepe de chine for this contrast detail. I felt any other color would have been too demonstrative.
The coat kind of looks like a sack of potatoes in this photo of its front edge!
The finished look of the lining edge.
I had some difficulty finding pink buttons. I ended up with two varieties found in two Etsy shops. I used a larger pink-swirly one for the looped closure, and smaller pink pearl-y ones for the concealed opening. If I ever find ones I like better, that’s a easy switch. But the more I see these, the more I like this combination.
Basting threads are still evident in this photo.
Alas, it is much too warm for wearing wool coats now, but it is ready for next Fall’s cooler days. By then I hope to have a windowpane checked skirt, in delicate gray, white and pink wool, specially made to wear with this coat.
Sometimes it is the smallest little detail which can make or break a sewing project. In the case of my pink coat, it was that single loop at the top front edge.
Normally loops are very straightforward, but with this pattern, that was not the case. When I looked ahead at the pattern instructions, this is what I found:
Because the front facing is not a separate piece, but rather folded back from the front edge, there was no seam within which to secure that loop. The instructions directed me to “slash” the yoke front facing through the center of the “squares,” shown here in basting:
The basted “squares” indicating where the “slashes” should be are in white just to the right of the center fold line in the photo.
And this was supposed to be done after the collar was already on and the facing properly secured in place. Well, I knew I wasn’t going to be slashing anything without getting a second opinion, and furthermore, I knew I would need to do the installation of the loop before the collar was on and the facing turned. I did not know how I could ever secure the loop without access to the inside of the facing.
I went online to Susan Khalje’s Couture Sewing Club which is by subscription on Facebook. Once I posed the question about the best way to accomplish this task, Mary Funt of the blog Cloning Couture suggested I use an awl to work holes where those squares were, separating the wool threads and enlarging the openings to the size I needed. Then I could whip the edges with silk buttonhole twist to secure them. Mary also suggested I use a medical clamp (hemostat, which I highly recommend as a vital sewing tool! I have had mine for years and use it frequently), to help flatten the raw ends of the loop.
This shows the awl, the hemostat, and my spool of vintage pink silk buttonhole twist, along with a sample “insertion” of the loop.
First I practiced! Here are my practice holes:
Practice holes helped me determine how large the hole needed to be to accommodate the loop.
The hemostat was also helpful in pulling the end of the loop through the holes I made. Susan Khalje further suggested that the loop would need to be very securely fastened inside, and she suggested I under-stitch that part of the facing, catching the loop in the stitching.
The completed holes, bound with silk twist.
The loop inserted into the facing.
This shows the secured ends of the loop inside the facing.
The under-stitched facing, in which I further secured the loop.
Oh my goodness! Thank you Mary Funt and Susan Khalje! Using this method produced exactly the results I wanted.
The finished loop.
After the mystery of the loop was solved successfully, it was on to the collar, and ultimately on to the final steps before attaching the lining. The completion of this coat is in sight, after all this time. I can’t wait!
Instruction sheets for patterns always intrigue me, and especially so, instruction sheets for vintage Vogue Designer patterns. They so often include a quirky method of handling one aspect of construction. And often the construction details for an entire complicated dress or coat fit on one side of one sheet, completely at odds with the amount of time involved in the actual process from beginning to end. The beginning of my pink coat, however, commenced long before I started at “ number 1” in the Instructions.
With my adjusted and fitted muslin (toile) completed, and with its pieces disassembled again, I transferred it onto white silk organza to be used as both the pattern for the fashion fabric and as its underlining. This was the point about which I was both equally excited and terrified! There is a real thrill involved in laying out the pattern on your fashion fabric, but my pink coating wool is no normal fashion fabric. A rare survivor, this French Lesur wool from the mid 1960s, needed some special attention before I could begin to lay out my organza pieces on it.
Often vintage wool displays a crease down its center point where it has been folded for decades. Fortunately, this Lesur wool was folded with the right side in. There was a definite crease line, and it looked a bit soiled as well.
In the left half of this photo, you can see a line of light soil along the crease. This is the wrong side of the fabric.
I used a Woolite spot remover pad and worked gently along the fold line to reduce the minor discoloration. Then I put the entire length of wool in the dryer with a Woolite dry cleaning cloth to freshen it. When it came out, the crease line was practically gone, but I noticed that the wool appeared just a bit thinner along that line. I knew I would have to work around this when I laid out my pattern pieces.
It is barely visible, but there is a line of thinner wool close to the center of the photo.
Working single layer, as is customary with couture construction, I spread out the wool on my dining room table. The “coat front and lower back” piece is quite wide, and extended across the center point line of my wool.
You can see how wide the Coat Front and Lower Back pattern piece (#3) is, on the lower left.
Because the longest straight edge of the piece is the front facing, I knew I had to make sure that line of “thinner” wool was on the facing and not on the main body of the coat. Fortunately the wool had no nap, so I was able to stagger those two very large pattern pieces with different vertical orientations, which saved the day!
A number of pieces were on the bias which always seems to use more fabric.
All in all, it was tight fit to get all the pattern pieces on. I let it all sit overnight so I could doublecheck myself with fresh eyes before I actually started to cut. Knowing how special this wool is made taking that first cut with scissors extremely nerve-wracking. However, I figured it was now or never, and so I cut! One by one, the pieces piled up and when I was finished , all I had left was this small mound of scraps!
I have just enough left to make a half belt, should I choose to do so.
Next up was a part I always enjoy for some strange reason: basting the silk organza underlining and the fashion fabric together. And then to the Instruction Sheet, only to remember that the first thing to do was the pockets! I like detail work, but whenever I have to make a slash in the main body of anything, I get anxious. Fashion Sewing is not for sissies!
Here is one of the pockets slashed and ready to turn.
With lots of basting, lots of double-checking, lots of talking to myself, I finished with two flapped pockets that look they way they should, thank goodness!
I basted the pockets closed to protect them while I finish the rest of the coat.
And then, no rest for the weary, the next item on the sheet was the fly for the concealed front. Actually these are not difficult, although this one was done a bit differently than the one I put on another coat I made several years ago.
The buttonholes on a fly front need to be as flat as possible, so even though I was working in wool, which would normally dictate bound buttonholes, I made these five buttonholes by machine. Obviously they do not show, being within a concealed opening, so this was the way to go.
When I saw this dress pictured on the website of Farmhouse Fabrics, I knew I wanted to use this pattern and this fabric for my granddaughters’ birthday dresses.
Fortunately, the pattern was included in the Summer 2018 issue of Classic Sewing Magazine, available from Farmhouse Fabrics, as were the fabric and all the trimmings.
This pattern allows for many variations; here is one page from the featured article on this dress in Classic Sewing Magazine.
With birthdays three weeks apart from each other, one in March and one in April, my granddaughters bridge that small gap between Winter and Spring. Presenting them each with a special Springtime birthday dress has become a real focus for me in planning my annual sewing. What amazes me is how quickly the time for this particular sewing comes up in the new year. But somehow I always get them finished in time for the birthday celebrations.
I decided to forego the white eyelet collar shown in the example and make the collars out of the dress fabric. My thought was this change made the dresses more “everyday,” albeit fancy, nice everyday! Because Farmhouse Fabrics carried this wonderful bias, picot-embellished edging, I chose to trim the collars with it.
In the back of my mind, I had the thought of also embellishing the dresses with rick rack (when do I not have the notion to embellish with rick rack?). However, I did not want to overdo it, leaving the lovely fabric to carry most of the impact of the dresses. When I found pale pink jumbo rick rack, I thought it might be the perfect anchor to the skirts, pickling up the zigzag motif on the picot collar edging.
Here is one of the dresses before the rick rack was applied.
I think the rick rack is a very nice addition.
I determined that a single row of rickrack was all I needed. Of course, to be done correctly, it had to be hand-sewn in place, which took a bit of time.
The final finishing touch was the placement of two pink buttons at the back opening.
I self-lined the bodices.
This diagram helps to show the details of the pattern. Notice the narrow darts in the bodice, which gives such a nice degree of shaping. This is the type of detail found on well-engineered patterns.
The backs of these dresses are so pretty!
So, two dresses done – and two+ yards of fabric left over! What would you do? Silky soft cotton, beautiful Spring colors, an even plaid. How could I not use it for something?
What do you think of a blouse? A casual, everyday type of blouse, hopefully perfect for the upcoming casual Summer? Yep – that’s what I did!
I have already altered, “perfected,” and made this vintage Simplicity pattern from the early 1970s several times, and I must say, I never get tired of making it.
The best laid plans sometimes need revision. As a person who likes to make careful lists and schedules, I find it difficult at times when life conspires to upset those plans. Especially difficult is when my sewing plans go awry!
I have been dreaming about making this coat in my treasured vintage pink wool.
With new enthusiasm after seeing the Dior Exhibit in Denver, I was sure this coat would be well underway by the end of March. However, for an unexpected, albeit happy, change of events, here we are at the end of March and all I have finished is my toile. But my enthusiasm is still on track!
A fun part of any project in which I use a Vogue Designer pattern is devoted to finding out more about the initial debut of the pattern, and documentation of its appearance in Vogue Pattern Book Magazine. Although I had a good hunch that this pattern was from the mid-sixties, I was quite delighted to see it included in a feature of new Designer patterns debuting in the October/November 1965 VPBM. .
The caption for my coat pattern, top and center, reads: “DIOR: The ensemble to wear all year – a dirndled dress and a coat that’s shaped high and narrow.”
Of course this was when Marc Bohan was the Creative Director at Christian Dior, a period of the 1960s known for its gorgeous dressmaker coats and ensembles. Here is a sampling of some other designs appearing in the same time frame in a few Vogue Pattern Book Magazines.
I actually own this pattern, too. I have always loved the look of this coat. This pattern is shown in the same issue of Vogue Pattern Book Magazine as the Dior design, October/November 1965. What a great year for coats.
This kimono-sleeved coat was shown made in textured pineapple wool by Einiger. I made my purple coat from vintage Einiger wool, so I know what fabulous quality it is.
This coat features a spread collar on a low V-neck. This coat and the one above are shown in the February/March 1966 Vogue Pattern Book Magazine.
This coat is described as being “the total look of the Chanelesque tradition.” It, too, was made from “mossy-surfaced” Einiger wool.
And this coat is reminiscent of the Dior design I am making, with its pointed collar, straight-shape and concealed closing. The tubular belt is a brilliant addition. This design is by Guy Laroche and both it and the pink coat shown above were included in the February/March 1964 Vogue Pattern Book Magazine.
Back to my toile: I made the first one without any alterations to the pattern. The first thing I noticed is that the horizontal seam which extends around the back and angles up on either side of the front, seemed to add extra “baggage” in the lower back.
Here was my first toile atop the waxed marking paper. This shows the lower front and back piece, with its angled side seam.
The seam was designed to be below the waistline, but I determined it might look better on me if it were reset to fall exactly on the waist. This adjustment would keep the spirit of the design, but would be more flattering on me for some reason.
I made another slight adjustment to the shoulder line. First I cut the shoulder line on the body of the coat back about ½ inch on either side, to reduce some excess fabric across the upper chest. That made some pulling in the top of the sleeves. So then I added about ½ inch to the top half/curve of each sleeve. So it was an even swap, just distributed differently.
This shows my markings on the upper shoulder.
And the adjustments to the top of the sleeves.
Interestingly, the sleeves have no shaping by darts or seams on this pattern. They seemed a bit too full to me, so I tapered the seam to reduce the width of each sleeve by about 1.5 inches. I have had to make this adjustment to other coat patterns from the same time period, so perhaps a fuller sleeve is a hallmark of that era. I did not want to narrow the sleeves too much, as they need to be comfortable to wear over long sleeved dresses and sweaters.
I am contemplating adding a half belt, secured with buttons to the back of the coat. That’s a decision I’ll make as the coat comes together. The drape of the wool, as opposed to the drape of the muslin, may convince me I do not need it, but I rather like the appearance of a back belt.
Here is a rough mock-up of a possible belt, but this needs much more thought!
I found this picture of another coat which has a high back belt, probably about the length of one which I might add. It is so helpful to find examples like this of design details.
Lots of pink featured in coats from the 1960s. This design was featured in the February/March 1968 International Vogue Pattern Book.
So, I have embarrassing little to show for the past three weeks regarding this coat. Perhaps the next three weeks may be kinder to me. We shall see!
In re-reading my last two reviews of the Dior in Denver Exhibit, I realize how very little I was able to include, when there was so much to see and learn. Well, these reviews cannot go on forever, but there are a few other aspects and components of the Exhibit that I still want to share.
In one of the narrower passageways between Exhibit “rooms,” there was a display of Dior scarves lining each side. From the Dior Heritage Collection in Paris, these printed silk twill scarves were designed by Alexandre Sache between about 1958-1976.
The very bright graphic ones were so eye-catching:
And this engaging one with its impressionistic rose in the center was my favorite, I think:
You may have noticed in my first two reviews how many of the fashions, especially the early ones, were made in black. Dior considered black “the most elegant of all colors.” While they often do not photograph as well as other colors, these fashions made in luscious black fabrics commanded attention throughout the Exhibit.
I apologize for not having the attribution on this cocktail dress.
Also spread throughout the Exhibit were quotes from the various Creative Directors. Two especially caught my eye. The first, from Christian Dior himself, was one I had never read before. “The Americans are, by essence, impeccable.” Wow! What a lovely tribute to his stylish American clients.
And then there is this one from the current Creative Director, Maria Grazia Chiuri: “A dress can have some impact but a woman makes the difference with her attitude.” This quote needs no further commentary…
The Exhibit included so many supporting documents and written and printed materials, it was impossible to identify the most important. But I want to share this copy of Time Magazine from March 4, 1957, with Christian Dior on its cover.
Dior died the same year, 1957, on October 24th.
As Exhibit goers departed the exhibition space, there were paper punch-out Dior “handbags” for the taking:
Here is the reverse of this small bag, with punch-out puzzle pieces of the coat included! So clever.
After four hours nonstop in the Exhibit, I reluctantly departed from the Denver Art Museum to get a very late lunch, with intentions to return to the museum shop for a little browsing. Here I am upon my return, standing in front of one of the displays of books:
And here is the bag (I love bags!) which housed all those lovely purchases made at the Museum Shop:
Upon my return home to Pennsylvania, I was anxious to see what Christian Dior Vogue Designer Patterns I have in my collection of vintage patterns. Two are actually ones I purchased in the early 1970s, another time in my life when I was actively sewing for myself :
I made this coat when I was in my early twenties. I only wish I still had it!
I never made this pattern, but I may still do so.
And then there are these two, somewhat recent purchases:
These two patterns are earlier than the two above.
It’s been over two weeks since I arrived home from Denver, Colorado where I visited this Exhibit, and I still think about it many times throughout each day. It was that spectacular.
This image adorned one of the doors of the elevators to the second floor where the exhibit is located.
The Exhibit was divided into 15 different themes/sections. In the first part of my review of the Exhibit, I covered the evolution of the fashion house from its founding in 1947 by Christian Dior up to the present day under its leadership by Maria Grazia Chiuri. A separate section was devoted to each of the seven (so far) Creative Directors. The other eight sections covered a myriad of topics; however, for me, three of the most outstanding and fascinating displays were 1) The Office of Dreams; 2) Ladies in Dior; and 3) The Total Look.
“The Office of Dreams” refers to Christian Dior’s studio. His hundreds of sketches, made for each of his collections, were first translated into toiles, made of muslin. (Here in the US, we often refer to our mock-ups as “muslins.”) According to the story-boards, Dior’s assistant and head of the workshops (ateliers), Madame Carre would ask this question of each toile: “Have I expressed you correctly.” When approved, each toile would be taken apart and its various components would be used as the pattern for that design. This process is, of course, used today in haute couture – and by those of us who are home couture dressmakers. The Exhibit had the most fascinating display of cotton toiles, all from recent Dior collections, the earliest being from 2007.
This coat by Raf Simons from 2012 received special attention.
A representation of the pattern derived from its toile was enlarged and featured on the opposing wall to all those toiles on display. As a dressmaker, I was enthralled with this opportunity to see all the pieces that went into this coat.
“Ladies in Dior” featured many of the notable, famous, socialite, and stylish women who have dressed in Dior over the decades. Among those women are: Lee Radziwill (sister of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis), Grace Kelly, Elizabeth Taylor, Marlene Dietrich, Josephine Baker, Marilyn Monroe, and more recently, Charlize Theron, Jennifer Lawrence, Natalie Portman, and Rihanna.
Elizabeth Taylor wore this embroidered faille evening gown from the Spring-Summer collection of 1961:
Here is a detail of the skirt to the dress above. Notice the slight sweep of the back part of the skirt. Very graceful and flattering.
I found this next gown to be one of the most amazing on display. Named “Fanny”,” it was designed for Fall-Winter of 1953 and made for American Elizabeth Firestone (who married into the founding family of Firestone Tires.)
On display close to the location of the dress was this drawing, including a swatch of the celestial-blue silk taffeta in which it was made.
In addition, there were numerous letters, sales receipts, and notes documenting many of the dresses in this section. The correspondence was perfectly fascinating.
I had to check twice to make sure this black embroidered dress had not actually been designed by Christian Dior himself.
Raf Simons was inspired by the 1949 Miss Dior dress when he designed the one pictured above in black for Natalie Portman in 2013.
The 1949 embroidered evening dress designed by Christian Dior and named for his sister. This design served as the prototype for Raf Simon’s dress.
This dress with its spectacular bow is similar to one worn by Marlene Dietrich. This one is from the Fall-Winter 1949 collection.
Never did I imagine that when I last wrote about the progress on this jacket, it would be an entire month before I could declare it “finished.” But such is a fact of life with the construction of one of these jackets. They always seem to take much longer to complete than ever imagined. (I should remind myself that during that month, I also made a wool skirt and I was away twice on short trips, but still…)
As this is the fifth one I have made, I can safely say that I have developed my own set of tips for working my way through the lengthy construction process. Of course, it all has to start with a pattern which is a perfect fit. Fortunately my muslin pattern is from a Jackets Class I had with Susan Khalje over five years ago. With this pattern, I can go right to my boucle and get started.
While it is often recommended to cut out just the body of the jacket, minus the sleeves (the variegated weave of which is then checked with the constructed jacket body before cutting them out), I have developed enough confidence that I cut out my sleeves along with the body of the jacket. This allows me to make the sleeves first. For me there are two advantages to doing this: 1) there is a psychological benefit in knowing that the sleeves are lined, linings are fell-stitched in place, trim is on, and the sleeves are as finished as they can be before setting them into the body of the jacket, and 2) I like to trim the sleeves first, as a way of testing the trim I have chosen. If I do not like it, I only have trim on one, or two, sleeves which must be removed. It is also much easier to sew trim on a sleeve which is still separate from the jacket.
Another tip I have learned is to use my walking foot not only for the channel quilting of the lining and fashion fabric (a must), but also for all the seams. I pin profusely, but the walking foot helps to keep the fabric from slipping, crucial when matching all those lines and plaids prevalent in a typical boucle weave.
I really went round and round with the trim for this jacket. I knew I wanted to use self-fringe, but I also knew it would need some definition added to it. After trying several colors of velvet and Petersham ribbon in the trough of the fringe, I realized I would have to go to a bright orange as an underlay for the navy twisted braid I wanted to place on top.
The trim was applied in three steps. Here the fringe is attached as the first step. Not too exciting all by itself.
The next step was to apply this bright orange velvet ribbon, also from Britex. It was really a leap of faith to use this very demonstrative color. It looks fairly garish like this! (I sewed each edge of this ribbon separately, so twice around for this part of the trim.)
But once the navy twisted braid is on, step number three, that bright orange underlay is fine.
One thing I have done with all my jackets – and this is a tip from Susan Khalje – is to add about 1/2 inch in length to the center back of the jacket, curving it up gently to the side seams. I love the effect that this little bit of extra curve gives to the back of the jacket.
I always wax and iron the thread which I use for applying the trim. It adds strength, but also is easier with which to work. For this jacket, I also carefully ironed each “level” of trim as I applied it.
A detail of the right pocket. Of course, and this is preaching to the choir, the pockets absolutely cannot be cut out until the body of the jacket is completed. Their placement is a visual determination which really depends upon the fit and appearance of the finished jacket.
I found these vintage buttons in one of my button boxes. I knew I wanted to use dark blue buttons, and I kind of liked the appearance of these.
The only hesitation I had is that they are plastic! It seems a bit of a sacrilege to put plastic buttons on one of these jackets, but I actually think they look okay. If I find other navy blue buttons in my future travels, I might switch them at some point. But right now, they work.
Because I had only 8 buttons, I was limited to two pockets, and three buttons on each sleeve. I probably would not have put four pockets on this jacket anyway, so that was not really a compromise.
I have enough of the boucle left over to make a simple straight skirt, I think. However, that will not happen this year! I am so ready to move on to my next project. In fact, it may be well over a year before I plunge into another one of these jackets. I have but one other boucle lurking about in my fabric closet right now, and I am content to let it stay there for a while.
It was much too cold for outdoor pictures, so these will have to do!