January 4, 2015

So many toiles...

The last time I talked about work in progress here, I told you I was going on with the vintage patterns. I told about making a muslin for this dress:

A real beauty from a winter 1950 issue of Bella magazine. 
I did just that:

And wasn't pleased with the result. This is a common problem when you fall in love with a design you've only seen in an illustration. Fashion photography may often lie, with drawings really are just a fiction of a garment. 

For obvious reasons, I'm not modeling these muslins but even on the dummy, you can see some of the issues. I'm not even talking about the fit here. There are some issues with that but nothing I can't deal with. 

My real problem worry is with the design elements I originally fell in love with. That pocket/pleat thing looks too wide when I wear this dress. The pleat from the shoulder (I always love that feature) which looks really prominent in the drawing, is actually quite small and not very noticeable. And that sassy pencil skirt is more of a modest A-line.
It's not an ugly dress but just not as great as I hoped it would be.

The fabric I was planning to use is a black wool crepe which has been in my stash for a while. It's a high quality material which I was able to buy fairly cheap. As such, it has suffered the fate of so many nice fabrics which are not bought with a specific project in mind: It has become a 'Holy Grail' fabric. It's so nice and I could never replace it without paying quite a lot more than I did for this stuff. As a result, I've become afraid to use it. 
Of course, that is ridiculous so I have decided to use it now. But I still really want to be sure I will use it to make something I will love.

So, I decided forget about the Bella dress and try something else. After some sketching, I went with an odd skirt shape I've had an eye on for a while.

This picture comes from Dutch ladies' magazine Beatrijs from 1951, from an article about fashion from the US. The skirt is pencil skirt at one side and circle skirt at the other. This lady looks very glamorous in it.
From the moment I saw this picture, I wondered if that would work in real life.

And I don't think it does. As I had expected, the width spreads across the skirt a bit and the weight of the wider side makes the bodice sag. It would be possible to compensate for the sagging but the whole thing just looks a bit weird.
I quite like this bodice though. I'm just not so sure I like it for the black crepe. I'm very sure I like it for another dress I want to make before the weather warms up again.

So, it was back to the drawing board again. This time, I decided to stop trying to be clever. Often a good call when you're feeling a bit lost design-wise.
How about making a simple beautiful dress? With some nice pattern details, of course. 

Kimono sleeves, a V-neck, half circle skirt. A good start but I wanted to try a different and new-to-me construction for that bodice and an interesting detail.

This bodice has side panels which extend into the underarm gussets. And I've added large patch pockets which stand away from the skirt at the top. It still requires some tweaks but I think I like it.

So, now I have to start thinking about the real dress: Full lining? Just a bodice lining? No lining? How about fitting the bodice closely and putting some boning in to keep the shape? And if I'm going to line the dress, what material should I use? And with the side panels, I will have no choice but to put the zipper at center back but shall I use an invisible zipper or some more vintage solution or go for something more edgy and use a metal zipper and put the teeth on display? And maybe I could use piping along the neckline and those pocket edges...

I should be able to finish the pattern on Tuesday so I hope I can start making this dress for real pretty soon.


  1. I know what you mean about "grail" fabrics. Sometimes I worry so much about a project that it never gets going. It helps to be making something on a deadline sometimes, because you get out of "perfection" mode and just start making decisions. I do like your last muslin the best.

  2. The last one looks fab. I would keep jyst an invisible zip. Congratulations on winning in the vintage pledge. Well deserved.

  3. fashion plates can be so misleading! i really really love the bodice of the first on and I wonder if you had done away with the waist seam and either had the dress as one piece (as it seems belted in the drawing), or allowed the bodice to come down to the pleat detail and work your skirt seam along an asymetric line from here..... of course this is not what you had envisioned so it may not be a look you would like at all. either way, you have been very busy doing up so many muslins!

  4. I love the final muslin! Before buying or sewing a vintage pattern I like to search and see if anyone has made it before and put pictures up, just so you see something 'real' rather than an illustration. Although this doesn't work with rarer patterns as there are almost never pictures up.You have so much patience to work through all those muslins with so many large changes!

  5. The muslin of that first one looks nothing like the lovely picture. Yes I could see you could get a dress like the picture by tweaking this and that, but it would take a LOT of tweaking.

    I like the last muslin, and will be interested to see how it translates into a proper dress, especially the pockets.

    Holy grail fabric, yup! Totally know what you mean. I have made a personal challenge to myself to sew up a few of those this year. Scary! But I'm gonna do it. I am!

  6. Still in love with the dress on the right side of the illustration. That faux trench coat look is fabulous. The skirt is really interesting, too. I'm sure whatever you make will be gorgeous.

  7. I'm new to your blog and want to tell you how much I enjoy your vintage pattern sewing projects. I especially love the 1920s dress that you made last year. I was poring over your entries last week with great interest. I am a relatively novice seamstress (more of a knitter), but I enjoy learning new things and will enjoy watching your progress on this dress.

  8. It's so exciting to see your work in progress! All those toiles, wow, I'm thoroughly impressed. I think it's lovely to see the thought process that goes into making a single garment and I honestly love seeing this behind the scenes kind of posts. There's just so much inspiration (and motivation) coming from knowing that other people have to try hard, too, just like me. I usually just see the end results which are stunning, but I like to also know what decisions were made that allowed the said results to happen. So thanks a lot for sharing this story!

    I also really like the bodice on the last toile. The construction is really clever and I like how boldly you placed the darts as decorative pieces. Lovely thinking!