Playing with Pleats

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Butterick 8038I had been after Butterick 8038 for some time, but it was rarely for sale and was always too expensive when it was, but I was finally lucky enough to win it on e-bay.  According to vintage patterns wikia, it is a 1957 pattern, which looks about right.

I love the fact that the pattern has been used, but never pinned, so either weighted or just free hand cut.  All of the markings had been made using blue chalk, and the bias facings, which are not included in the pattern, were cut from newspaper.  My favourite story was the extract from a letter to the paper asking who stole 2 geranium plants and hoping that they feel bad!

My pattern was for a 36 inch bust. In modern/re issued vintage patterns, this would probably fit alright, but having just had a bit of a disaster with a 36 inch bust 50’s pattern not being even vaguely big enough, I thought I would try my hand at grading the pattern up. I have amended/ adjusted/ tweaked patterns before, but never done a full size change. This pattern is worth the trouble so I looked up various methods.

I looked at several different methods to enlarge the pattern, some of which made much less sense to me than others, and finally settled on this one for its clear instructions and logical approach.  It took time, but all good things do.  I do not intend to reproduce the approach here (especially as I was so messy!) but the tutorial I used can be found at A Stitching Odyssey.

I traced the pattern onto tissue paper and then set about adjusting it. If I do this again, I would use a thicker paper for the initial trace as it was fiddly when cut and curled when I was trying to line up the pieces etc. It looks really messy, but I got there in the end.  It was also possibly not the best pattern to try this on given the crossover of the bodice, but with a consistent approach and a bit of care it seems to have works.  The size increase was not big enough to accommodate an extra pleat so I  reduced each pleat by 3mm and this worked well.

I would have loved the long sleeved version but my fabric was just too tight.  The fabric was a sari with borders one each side.  I had bought it from a charity shop for £4 and I really had set my heart on doing this dress in this fabric.

There was some rule breaking in the cutting.  The skirt was always to be cut cross grain as I wanted the border to run around the bottom.  The fabric was too narrow to cut the skirt back on the grain anyway. Given the sheen, this risky, but all great endeavors are!

I have never really used tailors tacks much, preferring to just place a pin in the fabric to mark a point unless the pattern was very detailed. In more recent times, I have started to use tacks more often, but with this dress used it to mark all points.  This was particularly useful when working on the pleats.  I did the ‘from’ pleat lines in one colour and the ‘to’ in an other which helped make the construction easier.

The dress went together very nicely – the instructions were clear.  The construction appeared complicated when I read it beforehand, but was all quite logical when you were actually doing it.

2015-05-22 018I love the skirt on this.  I am not a slender lady, but find that full skirted dresses are quite flattering.  I love the look of the pleats, the volume they give without adding bulk to the waist you can get with a gathered skirt.

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I am absolutely delighted with the fit of the dress.  I may move the starting points of the crossover sections down about 1/2 inch next time and try using bias binding around the neck and armholes when I make my next version as 2 inch bias facings were hard to double turn when going round the curve of the neckline.  I would really like to do the long sleeved version, possibly with the straight skirt for autumn/winter but also another sleeveless one in a more everyday fabric.  Just love it – I honestly believe it is the best thing I have ever sewn!

 

 

Wiggle Dress

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I love the style of clothes in Madmen, the earlier series mainly.  The contrasts are fabulous, from the demure wife with her full skirts and beautifully contoured bodices, to the overtly seductive, figure clinging dresses of the office secretary, Joan Holloway.  Very different looks, yet both are extremely feminine and, in my opinion, overtly sexy.

oh my!

oh my!

I also love the figures that fill the dresses, January Jones, who plays Don Draper’s wife, is petite shapely, whilst Christina Hendrix, who plays Joan has larger than life curves and she uses them.  I assume both looks are helped, at least in part, by good foundation garments, but there is something so sexy about dressing to accentuate what you have rather than hiding away.

I loved Gertie’s wiggle dress from her book.  It has diamond shaped gussets under the arms to enable movement.  I had never seen this before, but have since found it in the ‘how to’ sections of my Lutterloh books.  The concept fascinated me, so I have given it a go.

My first wiggle was in a light cotton.  Gertie has her own sizing, based on the American sizing, so my top was a size 10 (UK equivalent 14) but, for the first time in my life, I had gone down a size at the hips to a size 8 (UK12).  I couldn’t quite believe it, even though Gertie does say that she has her sizing is based on herself and those women she has come across, so I stuck to a 10 all the way down.  It was massive – not only were the hips too wide, but they reached their widest much too low as well.

The dress is heavily shaped along the side seam – much more reliant on this shaping than other dress patterns I have used.  Given this, it is one time when drawing an outline of yourself on a large piece of paper and using this silhouette to decide the widest/thinnest points of your figure would be a good idea.

2014-06-16 12.28.15 2014-09-13 008 I like the dress as it emphasises/exaggerates natural curves.  I like this but it means you have to get the fit just right, otherwise it will just bag out at the sides – more obviously too large than when that extra fabric is shared around your body.  That said, if it is close, tweaking is relatively easy.

I made the second dress in a heavier, plain green cotton with a slight stretch to it.  I went down to a size 8 for the hips and it was a much better fit, needing a couple of centimeters reduction around the hips as they were still a little low.  I love this green but am now debating whether to scoop out the neckline at the back into a deep curve.  I think that as it is complete I shall wear it a couple of times before I consider changing it.

Update:  I have done a third version in a very heavy, vintage jersey fabric.  I didn’t do the underarm gussets this time as the stretch permitted movement.  This is a very warm and comfortable dress for winter.