Friday, 26 May 2017

Frocktails Sydney: Dark Floral Vogue 1228

Frocktails always feels to me like an opportunity - and close to an obligation even - to make a new dress. So although I'd made a formal dress (not blogged, barely worn) late last year for Melbourne Frocktails, Sydney Frocktails called for something new.

Plan A was another formal dress in a divine duchesse satin layered with tulle and boning and organza and lining (hmm sounding a bit like my Melbourne frocktails dress...), but the pattern I had lined up for all these materials was the wrong size. Cold feet and procrastination ensued - I will make this dress another time though. 

Plan B was to make something quick, with fabric from the stash, and using a pattern I'd used before - learning from Blogless Anna, who always rocks up to the Melbourne Frocktails in simple, elegant garments made impeccably from beautiful fabrics. 

Here it is then: Vogue 1228 (previously blogged here, in what I admit was NOT a particularly useful review), sewn from a small length of gorgeous fabric from The Fabric Store that I'd previously earmarked for a mildly flared midi skirt:

Apologies for blending into the background in so many of these pictures (but that's introverts for you, right?) - I don't know when I'm going to have the free time to re-take them, so I hope they're good enough for you to see where the dress starts and ends.

This Vena Cava pattern is rated easy in the Vogue rating system, and is definitely rated correctly. Mind you, Vogue's "easy" is not the same as Simplicity's "easy" - there are still some interesting techniques going on! This pattern is described as follows on the envelope:

"Close-fitting (through bustline), above mid-knee length dress has front and back stitched pleats, kimono sleeves with sleeve band and narrow tabs, stitched facing at neckline, invisible side zipper, very narrow hem at lower edge."

Between making the dress way back when and now I misplaced a crucial page of instructions (yes, the page that tells you how to make the front and back stitched pleats and how to then finish the front neckline without showing the pleat), but luckily for me another blogger had documented these exact steps in her review

I found the fit to be consistent with other Vogue patterns I've made before, but if you do sew this up, as usual, I'd recommend measuring the pattern pieces. On me the dress is a little close fitting through the hips because I just assumed I could still wear the size I'd cut out last time :(.

Sadly the pattern is way, way OOP, but there look to be lots available on eBay and etsy. 

This heavenly fabric is from The Fabric Store, though they don't have it in stock anymore. It has a lot of body, which I love in the sleeves of this dress. Although the right side of the fabric is very dark with a lovely sheen, the underside is a pale grey and matte. I don't recall the fabric composition but perhaps it's a viscose-silk blend?  It's beautiful up close but the right side is quite fragile; I ended up snagging the dress on the sequins of my handbag while we were out.

The handbag - which I didn't make, though it'd be an easy sew - is another story.  Those big sequins show different colours when you flip them, which made for lots of fun with certain cheeky people writing messages on my bag while I wasn't looking :). Let's just say I wouldn't be surprised if Christy made a bag just like this one day...

Having made the dress before I knew I could skip the side zipper (one benefit of being slightly pear shaped!). 

I also knew the neckline was a problem - as drafted, the neckline is quite low. This is a problem on me because the square shape is also quite wide, and the corners of the neckline end up showing a triangle of bra cup on each side. Obviously this is not going to be an issue for people with a lower set bust, but I needed to either raise or change the shape of the neckline to remedy this issue. If I'd raised the neckline, this would have raised the point where the bust pleats release, and I felt those pleats need to be quite high to do their job. So my solution was to narrow the neckline by a centimetre all the way around (back and front) and then also to taper the sides of the square inwards from the shoulder line to the lowest point on the bust, changing the shape from square to isosceles trapezoidal (I love a bit of geometry in sewing!).

Fabric limitations brought the hemline up several inches, but I was then able to make up some of this length with a hem band sewn from fabric cut on the cross grain (and it doesn't hang quite right, but since this dress is generally worn in the evenings I don't think this is very noticeable). 

And instead of making tabs to hold the sleeve bands folded over I used small, invisible hand stitching to hold the bands in a permanent fold.

Yay or Nay?
This dress is definitely a "yay" dress!

Give the fancy fabric I thought this dress would end up languishing in my wardrobe with all the other fancy dresses, but it's had heaps of wear - I don't go out much, but this dress has still managed about half a dozen outings over the last couple of months!  I'll have to remember this for future dresses: a simple design makes for a more adaptable dress than a complex one.

This particular dress shape is also perfect for running down the street, catching the train, playing with the pup... it's not voluminous, but there's enough width in the skirt for lots of motion. Alternatively you can pretend you're running for a train while your pup lies around in the grass:

And the frocktails event itself? Well, it was every bit as fabulous as you might imagine :).  The venue was cool, the cocktails and snacks were delicious, there was a surfeit of frock inspiration, and too TOO many people to chat with - locals, Queenslanders, Canberrans, Melbournites - these events always go too quickly!  You can see lots of portraits from the night on Caroline's Instagram feed (thank you Mr Usefulbox for this lovely photo of me!), and you can read Caz's wrap-up blog post here.

I'm already looking forward to the next frocktails, and if you're even slightly tempted, I'd encourage you to come along too! see you soon

- Gabrielle xx

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

D&G Sundress: Vogue 8974

There was an icy wind blowing down the street the other night as I walked home from the station, trying very hard to imagine being warm. Despite the sunshine in these photos, Sydney weather has turned the corner, and the evenings have a bite to them.

I thought about this summer dress, waiting to be blogged, but frankly it didn't warm me up at all...

...all it did was remind me I needed to get cracking and write the blog post!!

The dress is Vogue 8974 which I imagine you've already seen blogged here and here, or in one of its many other blogged incarnations.  I started sewing this dress back in 2015 (!!), tweaking a muslin till the fit was perfect, but when I applied my adjusted pattern to the good fabric (Dolce & Gabbana textured cotton from Tessuti Fabrics - and no, pretty sure they don't have any more of it), the fit was completely off, and much looser than in my muslin.

I focused on aligning the centre front and back chevrons, then put the dress aside till the following summer.

In 2016 I got thinner, and when I came back to this dress the fit was even looser.

I sewed the main seams, set in an invisible zip in lieu of side snaps, moved the shoulder straps to line up the stripes (oops, a cutting out misalignment) and then spent hours and hours pinning and re-pinning the dress to take in all the saggy areas.

And then I put it aside again, wary of committing to so many adjustments.

I got it out AGAIN a few months ago, and hooray, I'd gained lots of weight and the dress now fit me perfectly!  #silverlining

Unfortunately by the time I'd finished up all the hand stitching on the inside of the dress (sewing opened seams flat, attaching facings to seams,sewing up the hem... ) I'd gained yet more weight, so in these photos you are not seeing that wonderful moment of perfect fit; you're seeing my "this is slightly too tight but I'm smiling anyway" version of fit :(.  Bugger.  

At this rate though I am hopeful it could fit brilliantly next summer ... or the one after?


Vogue 8974 is a nice little pattern - the dress has interesting lines, a fit and flare profile that's a bit different from the usual, and I think it looks good on a variety of figures. It's a fun one to use with a striped fabric, and it's not super hard to sew.  The pattern includes instructions for side snaps to fasten the left side of the dress, but this is easily swapped for a zip, and you can also omit the belt if you don't happen to have belt-making paraphernalia to hand.

I haven't tried the little unlined jacket pattern that comes with the dress but I think it looks pretty sweet too. I was originally thinking to make a matching jacket with the piece of fabric I have left over from the dress, but then that might just be stripe overkill.

If I make the jacket, or make the dress again, there is one point I'd like to change: I'd add interfacing. How modern, right?  The pattern only shows the belt being interfaced, and while I noticed this vintage feature in time to retrospectively interface the dress facings, the upper edges of the bodice and the side seams, I wish I'd noticed before sewing the strap tubes.

Fit / Size

Arghh. Well, fit is the real challenge with this dress pattern. I found it was a bit of work to adjust the bodice to fit nicely, with darts in the right place, straps laying flat (I didn't quite achieve that - I needed a fitting friend for the back) AND side bodice not too low or high under the arms. You might be lucky and the dress might fit you out of the envelope, but I think it'd be realistic to go into sewing this dress expecting lots of try-ons and adjustments as you go.  For the record my dress is mostly a size 12-14, but ranges from size 10 above the bust to size 18 at the waist.


I made a few "modernification" modifications to the pattern:
  • An invisible zip instead of side snaps - I'm too lazy for side snaps! 
  • Front straps without buttons (couldn't think of what sort of buttons I'd want)
  • Moved the front straps to align the stripes (they shouldn't be set back from the "V" but should continue its line), and next time I'd angle the back straps to make them sit flush against my back
  • Used my overlocker instead of turning under and stitching down seam allowances on the facings
  • Used interfacing on bodice edges, side seams and facings
  • Added height to the bodice as when the dart was in the right place the bodice cut looked too low 
  • Skipped the belt in favour of showing off the chevrons at the waistline

From memory I think I also changed the grainlines of the pattern - I really, really wanted those chevrons down the front and back, but that meant cutting the centre front (CF) and centre back (CB) seams on the bias.  I intended for the chevrons from the bodice and the skirt to meet at the waist in a double ended point, but I mustn't have measured carefully enough when I was cutting out, and that double point doesn't quite work out.


On a completely different topic, in case you were wondering where I went between February and April... I went nowhere; life just got crazily stressful, both at work and at home.

The full time job I mentioned towards the end of this post grew a couple of months ago when my colleague in the team left the company for an amazing overseas role, and I've been stretched trying to cover both our roles ever since.  We've recently been interviewing to fill the position, which was going to report to me (yay, a manager job!), and I was hopeful we'd be making a job offer in the next few days, but on Thursday night I was given the bad news that my Department has decided to save money by not filling any vacant positions for the rest of this FY.   I'm not sure what I'm going to do now, but I know I'm not prepared to kill myself for another 6+ months doing two jobs.

On the home front things are going nicely at the moment, but that's after a couple of pretty intense months with my daughter spending a few weeks in hospital, my son starting high school, the cat developing severe allergies, and my dad and his partner both in and out of hospital for surgery and tests. My daughter is hopefully having a preventative operation in a few weeks, and dad's having more surgery next week, but hopefully after that the health worries will ease off.

So - that's why I was MIA! I used to think sewing was my form of relaxation, a contrast to the frustrations and stresses of work and family life, but it turns out that when the stress is ramped up I just don't have the mental bandwidth to sew.


And back to the sewing... Marie of A Stitching Odyssey has been running the Vintage Pattern Pledge since 2014, and I joined in last year (somewhat unsuccessfully, you could argue) and the year before.

Here's all I managed last year against my vintage pledge:

Vintage Vogue skirt
Vintage DVF dress

This year I'll be having another go at pushing myself to sew from my vintage patterns - and I'm delighted that after three attempts this dress finally counts towards my pledge!

During 2017, I, Gabrielle of Up Sew Late, will sew up or finish sewing at least four of my vintage or reproduction sewing patterns. 

I'll try to blog again soon - I've got swimmers, frocktails dresses and a couple more tops to share with you as soon as I can get my photos in order :).

Happy sewing

Gabrielle xx

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