Sunday, 11 December 2016

Vogue 1501: The Birthday Dress

A couple of months ago now my mum brought me back several delectable fabrics from her trip to New York (no, not from Mood Fabrics, if you were wondering), and we agreed they could be an early birthday present - hooray! This pebble-patterned crisp cotton was one of them - such a great pick, given my current obsession with blue fabric - and I'm delighted to have been able to sew it up in time for my birthday, early last month.

The pattern is of course the very recognisable Rachel Comey dress, Vogue 1501 (aka the Delane dress, and related to the Klein dress).

I wasn't sure of the fabric composition of the original dress as shown on the pattern envelope, but then I did some searching on the internet, and interestingly all of the RC Delane dresses looked to be made from 100% polyester! So I guess the dress on the pattern envelope is polyester too; maybe a polyester crepe.  Mine is cotton :). For our humid summers I will always choose cotton over polyester, and I suspect the sewing's easier this way too :).

Here are a few of those original polyester dresses - although I'm not a fan of polyester in summer clothing, I have to say the design does look great in a drapey fabric:


And apart from using a very different fabric I stayed pretty much true to the pattern.

I sewed a size 12 in the bodice, size 14 in the waist and below, and then made just a couple of minor deviations:  I lengthened the skirt a couple of inches (I'm around 5'8" with an average torso length), and while I tried and liked the idea of the shoulder pads, I left them out so as not to lose any bodice length.

Oh and I didn't have quite enough fabric, so my facings were cut from a contrasting white cotton, which feels very summery. 

Looking at these photos, perhaps I should add those shoulder pads back - I thought the bodice was verging on too short and pulling up the front hemline, but if anything the opposite looks to be happening! Hopefully that's just my lazy posture...

The bodice is roomy (hell, mine's even puffy in the front!) with a loose hanging back bodice over a more fitted back skirt.

I'm not convinced this is a particularly flattering garment, but it feels breezy without being revealing and I really like that - it's a pleasure to wear on a hot day, and that's the main thing!

In case you're tempted to make one of these dresses for yourself, let me get into a bit more detail in reviewing the pattern.

Firstly, you've probably noticed the pattern is rated Easy - and I think that's a fair rating, as there are no complex acts of sewing involved. Having said that, this is the sort of pattern that requires patience: there are a lot of little steps involved, and several of these demand you pay attention to your cutting and/or stitching. Which is absolutely fine, but if you're in the mood for slapdash sewing you might want to delay the attachment of your bodice to the skirt at the front waistband, for example :).

The instructions are pretty comprehensive: they show you how to make and attach a button loop, how to prevent your pockets from flapping around, where to understitch, which stress points to reinforce, how to insert an invisible zip without a bubble at the end, and how to include a bias bound finish on the inside of your waistband. I suspect the instructions wouldn't be quite detailed enough for an absolute beginner, but I think they'd be sufficient for someone with a few garments to their name.

My only quibble is with the suggested seam finishes in step 19. The pattern suggests you finish your raw edges on the bodice side seam, but I think this can make for too thick a finish on light fabrics so I just overlocked these edges. The recommended fabrics for this pattern are crepe, linen blends, jersey and chambray, so maybe I've just used an inappropriate fabric, and maybe bias tape would work on less summery fabric.

One quibble isn't much (not from an analyst!) and there is LOTS to love with this pattern: roomy and well placed pockets, hidden under the folds of the pleats; armholes that are not too low and not too high; an interesting design that keeps you cool in summer without resulting in horrendous sunburn; lovely facings; neat finishes; a choice of a tucked in bodice or a loose and breezy one; and great instructions.  That's heaps!

I should also say I'm also pretty happy with my own sewing on this dress :).  I restrained myself from bolting ahead and taking shortcuts, and I even unpicked some of the narrow hems and resewed them when they weren't looking neat and symmetric, even though I abhor unpicking!  I really like the look of the pebble print on this dress, and I'm pleased to have had a go at balancing the pebbles over the front bodice and on the waistband - though I'm not sure if this is at all noticeable to anyone else :).

Hmm I think I like the side back view best - there are no idle thoughts of Teletubbies creeping into my subconscious from this angle:  

So will I make this dress again? I might! I'd like to make it in a white linen jersey, with the skirt lengthened and the darted, zipped up back skirt replaced by an elastic waist and just enough gathering to get over my hips. I know the narrow hems would be a bugger to sew in a jersey though. I'd also like to play with the shape of that loose back bodice with a more structural fabric...

If you're thinking of making this dress, here are my final thoughts on what to pay attention to and what to skip: 
  • If there's plenty of fabric you can skip the centre front seam on the skirt
  • There's no need for bias bound seam edges except at the lower edge of the waistband 
  • The shoulder gussets can be omitted if you're not using shoulder pads 
  • The pleats need to be carefully aligned above and below the waistband, and should be symmetric on either side of centre front.
  • Don't skip the understitching 
  • The neckhole is not huge - you will probably need the back button and opening
  • Pay attention to the waist band and hip sizes, but the rest of the garment is loose
  • Check the front bodice length if you are taller or shorter than average 
  • The front bodice has very visible, angled hems so don't skip the ironing steps here
  • Follow the directions for reinforcing, stitching and clipping the front bodice carefully so you don't get a mess at the junction of the waistband and front bodice

I hope that doesn't put you off! 

Oh and once the dress is sewn, there's one further challenge - how to hang it in your wardrobe! By the shoulders, like a regular dress? From the waist, like a skirt? Folded over a hanger, like umm... like a tricky thing? 

Thank you and goodnight!~

See you soon

- Gabrielle xx

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