Swell Dressed

When Josh, my mom and I went on our little adventure to beautiful Washougal, Washington last month, I picked up some lovely dusty blue wool from the Pendleton Woolen Mill Store up there. For a whoppin’ $1.99 a yard. Pendleton makes some incredibly soft wools, almost silky, and if you can tolerate wool, you don’t even have to line garments made with their fabric, as they don’t seem to use all the irritating chemicals in their wools that most manufacturers seem to love.

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I had it in my mind that I’d make a funky short, princess-seamed trench coat with black buttons and maybe some black piping in the seams. However, when I was organizing my pattern collection one evening (this is huge entertainment for me, by the way), I noticed that at the last Fabric Depot Simplicity sale I had purchased this vintage reissue pattern.

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I’m not even really sure why I bought this pattern. I probably thought that the expressions on the faces of the models were funny. And since it was $2.49, not a huge investment to just chuck in the “collection.” I think vintage patterns are cool, I just am not big into retro styles, since they’re not really good for me (or so I think for whatever reason). I think I was drawn to the interesting vertical seaming and curved darts (I’d never made anything with this sort of dart) of the dress.

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Anyway, it’s a fantastic style. And while it definitely has a vintage feel to it, it still works. I don’t look like a flashback or like I’m wearing a costume. The wool has a lovely drape to it and is ever-so-swingy. Just enough movement to make the dress fun.

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(An aside, the blue wool sure looks lovely with my new crocheted lace tights from my new favorite—and Portland-based!—online store, Sock Dreams. If—like me—you’re obsessed with tights or other leg and footwear and are annoyed—like me—that you can’t find anything fun, check them out. The proprietress even has a socks/tights/legwear blog where she shows off some pretty snazzy legwear and a seemingly infinite number of awesome shoes. I’m not affiliated with them, just a happy customer. There’s been a lively discussion about tights vs. nylons on Pattern Review lately, too, if you care to weigh in on this issue…)

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The banded collar is a style I never, ever wear—because it’s not generally very flattering on me. I have a theory that these types of collars make me look shorter. (I have a lot of theories about a lot of things making me look shorter, because I refuse to come to terms with the fact that I’m a short person—I just know I was meant to be tall.) However, because the dress has a slightly plunging V-neck that’s accentuated by three covered buttons, the collar is balanced out and looks quite lovely.

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Despite how well this dress turned out, it was not without a major hiccup. The sleeves on this pattern were drafted completely incorrectly. Firstly, they were perfectly symmetrical. Which I know is not right. Every item I’ve ever sewn has had a definite front and back to the sleeve. This didn’t. Second, there was zero—possibly even negative—ease in the sleeve. None. Nada. Zero. Ziltch. I forged ahead and set in the sleeve, with a feeling of dread looming over me that it wouldn’t work out. When I set in the sleeve and tried the dress on I couldn’t move my arm. At all. My arm fit into the sleeve, it was just completely immobilized. And it wasn’t that annoying feeling where the sleeve twists when you put it on backwards because you’re not paying attention to the notches. It was a weird suffocating feeling. So, back to the drawing board. After a moment of anger, frustration, panic and a chai latte, I devised a simple, reasonable solution: I loved the fit of the sleeves in the Hot Patterns Princess Blouse, and just used the short sleeves off of that blouse and it worked perfectly. (In hindsight, I wish I’d taken pictures of the wacky sleeve to document the before and after, since it’s sort of interesting and I think that I actually understand sleeve construction much better after this experience.)

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Like I said, I put three covered buttons on the neckline, which looks pretty swell (60s lingo inserted as a shout out to the dress’ era). It’s actually a tremendous pain in the butt to cover the little half inch buttons with wool fabric–fyi…

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Anyway, the thing I really loved the most about this dress is the curved French darts. I’m going to look through my sewing reference books and do some googling to see if there’s a reasonably simple way to cover your normal darts to these. I usually avoid patterns with regular darts because I’ve got my alterations to princess seems down pat, but I just love the flattering look of this style of dart. Seems like there must be some technique someone’s figured out, right? Anyone have any thoughts?

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~Sarah the Sewist

P.S. Since I posted this, I had a few people ask about the location of this “photo shoot.” It’s over near the Portland International Airport, at the new Cascade Station development, where the Ikea is. The field I’m standing in is a favorite spot for Great Blue Heron and there were at least three hanging out there when Josh was taking my picture. It’s very cool to see these beautiful birds that very affected by toxins in their environment and have really made a comeback in a big way. They’re also the official bird of Portland.


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6 thoughts on “Swell Dressed

  1. Your dress turned out quite nice!

    I tried that pattern, and it was a complete flop. I figured either I measured myself incorrectly or it was drafted with a little less ease than I expected. My problem with it was in the butt section!!

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