I came across the Lutterloh dressmaking system by finding vintage patterns on Etsy that needed enlarging. I looked into it further and found a lovely site dedicated to using these patterns, and then I managed to buy some on e-bay.
The pattern system started in the 30’s and they are still producing books using the same system today. You start off with pattern pieces that look like this:
You enlarge them using your bust and hip measurements and a special piece tape measure. You do need prior sewing knowledge, or excellent instincts, as there are no construction details and many of the patterns have darts without details of their depth and sometimes width. There is a whole section on sewing techniques and skills, although mine was in German , which I don’t speak. I believe that the average woman would have a greater sewing knowledge and be used to adding or adjusting darts at the time when these patterns were published.
I chose this dress as my first Lutterloh project because it is gorgeous, and not too precision based as it has the gathered sections. I decided against the central front seam, but with hindsight think it would have been a point of interest. I intended to do buttons down the back of the dress as in the original pattern but had issues finding buttons that were interesting enough for the straps on the front and not too fussy, overbearing or lumpy to use on the back.
Whilst I am pleased with the dress, I find it a little plain, and don’t think it suits my body as much as some other frocks I have made. I think my choice of fabric was poor, but I just loved the colour so very much. The fabric has a light cotton feel, but also has a slight stretch, which I thought would be a good idea as it would be a little more forgiving on the fit if needed. The straps across the front are functioning as they need to be opened to get the dress on and off – the zip (button opening) in the back only goes to the waist, so you need to be able to open the gathering on the front panel.
I didn’t think I would like the neckline as it extremely high, but I stuck with the original draft and am glad I did as I think it is one of the nicest necklines I have, and it feels sophisticated. The fit has absolutely delighted me. I had read that these patterns do fit very well, but given that we are all different shapes and that the enlargement is drafted using bust and hip measurements, I had reservations. In addition, scanning and printing the pattern and then enlarging it myself does leave plenty of room for human error. But I am delighted – it fits beautifully around the back.
One problem is that with natural movement, the front seam joining the top to the bottom can become visibly from behind the lower tab. I have countered this by putting a small press stud between them, just to stop it riding up and down.
It isn’t perfect, but as my first attempt at a Lutterloh pattern I am delighted and hope to try it again in a more interesting fabric. I hope to do it in a textured fabric, maybe a tweed or wool mix for the autumn. I would also loved to do the top with the buttons down the back – I know that would be awkward to do up/undo, but that opening is not essential as long as the front tabs are real.
Even more excitingly, I shall be enthusiastically trying more of them! Watch this space!