November 27, 2010

Another dress to consider

With the colder weather (we had the first stray flakes of wet snow today! I know it's nothing compared to the weather in other parts of the world, but it is definate proof of the arrival of winter) I wear mostly separates. In summer, I loved my dresses but in winter I find it harder to wear them well. Don't get me wrong, I have and love a few but generally speaking... A lot of styles just don't look very nice with a long sleeve. Three quarter sleeves can solve that problem but they can also be cold.
Then there's the issue of fabric. I love wool but they can easily be too thick, look too 'buttoned-up' and require lining. Of course, thicker knits work fine but I don't like my skirts sticking to tights.And if you're going to do lining: should you line the entire dress? And with what? Standard lining fabrics prevent 'sticking' but aren't very nice to wear on one's skin and for the likes of thin cotton, the opposite is true (don't mention more expensive lining fabrics, like Bemberg, I know that might work but I can't afford to spend that kind of money on lining a possibly experimental dress).
So, I largely stick with seperates and occasionally try out one option, or another. It's one of those I have on my mind right now, but I'll really need your help.

This fabric has been in my stash for at least two years. It's a cotton velvet knit in a deep gray. I love the look and feel of it, but find it very hard to envision it in my wardrobe (completely apart from the fact that it may just be an inadmissable transgression of my A/W colour scheme...)

I have thought about using it in a vaguely 30's shape (sleek, longish skirt, higher waistline and drapey, wider top bit) and I really like this dress.

Lanvin, winter 2009/2010. It's perfect, and would be very easy to knock off, but I want a more practical dress. Sleeves, people. Normal winter dresses need sleeves, don't they?
Of course, this is an evening dress but in this country, formal dressing is hardly ever required. Or even welcomed.
And despite long skirts getting more fashionable now, a full length skirt AND long sleeves, all of it in dark velvet is a bit too 'Ms. Morticia' for my taste.

So, I've been making some sketches. I'm not really happy with any of them but I feel like I'm stuck. Your imput might give me an opportunity to look at fabric differently...
All these are rough pencil sketches. I'm not going to put in a lot of time making no-good sketches in Illustrator, I'm not that good at it.

First up: Sleek skirt just past the knee, long fitted sleeves, big cowl neck with pleats on one side. I sort of like it, but fear it might be too frumpy.

Secondly, the same skirt and belt but a fuller top with a V-neck and a pleat at center front. Full-ish three quarter length raglan sleeves with pleat. I figured showing a bit more skin might do the trick but this doesn't feel like me and might just be more frumpy in that velvet.

Number three. Basics never fail. A simple fitted T-shirt dress with long sleeves and a fairly big cowl. It would work. But be boring.

Four. I have, so far, avoided gathers because they would get very bulky in this fabric. But how about tiny gathers or pleats? I didn't really have a clear picture of this in my head, hence the un-clear drawing. It has a fuller skirt than the other ones, and long fitted sleeves. I don't see myself in this dress...

Five is based on a wedding dress in "Revue". It has a gored skirt which flares out a bit at the knee and extends to a point above the waist, kimono sleeves and a surplice bodice with a wide, slightly draped neckline. It is pretty but there is another skirt on my to-do list with the same kind of skirt. And I'm not so sure a wide-open, has-to-be-filled-up-a-bit neckline is a thing for me.

So, this is where I am now. I guess I'll go and work on something else first... But seriously, I would love your imput on this. What do you think of my ideas so far? Did I miss any obvious hits? Do you have any suggestions or know anything I should look at (it doesn't need to be a pattern, I'm going to draft this myself anyway. It inspiration I'm after)?


  1. Cotton velvet sounds lovely and soft to wear, but I think it won't be very drapy. I wonder if you'd be better making separates--a skirt and bolero for example and wearing a softer fabric on top.

  2. Dear Sauvage

    I think the first dress could be smashing on you, especially in the right color! I love it! And it looks very wintery, cuddly and warm. Not frumpy at all! (I live in San Diego so "winter" is a bit silly here. But I used to live in a very very cold place, so I know what is required!)

    I admire your sewing skills and design skills very much!

  3. Hmm. The fabric looks luscious.

    I like your last three options, especially the boring cowl-neck (though if going for the gathered one, for some reason I prefer a straight, narrow skirt).

    If it were me, on the other hand, I'd be thinking some kind of long "under jacket"---fairly softly constructed, comfortable but fitted, to wear over separates but under the real winter coat. Of course this might require a very long real coat to go over---a staple of my wardrobe but not necessarily anyone else's. ;). And would only work if it's a pretty stable knit.

    What about a simple, high-necked (maybe even turtleneck) dress with a fairly widely flaring (maybe with godets) skirt?

    The fabric is striking enough, I think simple would be best.

  4. It's a cotton velvet knit, so it is drapy. The hand is nothing like that of a woven velvet. It could be treated like any other thicker knit fabric.
    Coming to think of it this fabric is quite like the stuff those 'juicy couture' track suits are made of. But obviously, track suits are big NO in my book.

  5. I had a dress in a fabric that I imagine was sort of like the one you had. The dress was a bit like the number three dress you have here. I think I would go with number three, but instead of three-quarter sleeves, I would make the sleeves very fitted and longer than your arms so that they will gather at the wrists. YOu might even want to make a little opening in the end to stick your thumb through so that you can pull the sleeves all the way over your hands.
    I love the "boring cowl-nevk" as you call it and would make it really long as well so that on really cold days you can pull it over your hair as a hood. Or pull it down on your shoulders a bit as in drawing no. one.

    I loved my dress and I am sorry that it no longer fits me. It had normal length sleeves and a regular hood, but had I been able to have one made today, I think I would change it to the way I described it here. I used to put wool underwear on and a slip on top underneath the dress. Perfect for winter (I am in the colder areas of the world that you are talking about, 0°F here today).

    Good luck and let us know what you end up with!

  6. Hi Stylish Lady,

    Upon your dilemma I've been sifting through my database of fasion images: so far I came up with these:
    The Chanel Resort 2010 show features some velvet dresses and even a velvet two pieced suit, same goes for the Givenchy Spring collection which also featured a velvet two piece.
    Not velvet, but a very beautiful design, me thinks, that also would work when using velvet fabric is a kinda sack/ballooned dress from Christian Lacroix last show (the spring/summer collection for 2010). For some nice a-symmetrical dresses; check out the (Fall 2010) shows from the Vionnet label. That and Naem Khan's show for Fall 2010 also has this beautiful (longsleeved!) tunic dress with some embroidery, that I would think would really work.
    You can check the shows on (ofcourse!).
    Furthermore I was thinking...have you ever considered maybe making a velvet skirt with a top attached made from another fabric? I just thougt that using different material in 1 garment would maybe emphasize their texture and fabric qualities...what do you think?

    Wishing you luck and have a great weekeind!


  7. I like the first dress as well, and I think you could do a lot of versatile things with it. I like the layers of it, and think you could perhaps play with the difference between layers and linings, thereby avoiding issues with bulk and getting some more color involved. For instance, what if you sliced the sides or back of the skirt and added an inverted box pleat in a lighter-weight different-colored fabric? And/or made the top portion of the bodice that goes underneath the draped portion a lighter-weight or smoother fabric? You could even make the draped portion button on and off the way some pieces of vintage outfits do.

    Just thoughts to play with -- enjoy whatever you come up with! :)

  8. My opinion; make the long dress and wear it with a long sleeved top on underneath for winter. The length will keep your legs warm, and you "can" wear it for evening if necessary! My personal preference is for your original simple Lanvin inspiration look over all the others.

  9. That fabric looks awesome!

    How about version three with the cowl reversed, so your back is exposed but chest is covered?

  10. I think you could solve the sleeves issue by wearing full-length armwarmers or gloves. Depending on the fabric choice, those can be either very classic or very edgy. I think that sort of thing would work very well with your style. Taking off the sleeves makes any of the dresses instantly less frumpy.

  11. I like the original Lanvin dress, too, but maybe with a longer, more dramatic sleeve? I saw a similar dress at the Fendi store in Rome. Around the neck, they'd draped a fur stole, which was lovely.