Monday, May 21, 2012

Finished garment: Vintage red sheath dress

You may remember I finished a couple of courses recently:-
- Susan's Khaljie's online The Couture Dress course
- Fitting a commercial pattern course

I decided to apply what I had learned to a vintage sheath dress pattern I'd collected some time ago. It ticked all the right boxes for us curvy girls:-

  • the bodice and skirt darts allowed for figure flattering fitting
  • the skirt was not quite pencil straight so was hip/thigh skimming
  • the 2 side slits allowed for ease of movement
  • there was a nice V neck feature at the back of the dress
  • there were some subtle tucks at the waist making the stomach area more flattering
  • I left the overskirt option off but having seen the dress, it could be quite cute in the right fabric
So to the fabric and construction:-

  • Fashion fabric: Red/black digital print cotton with a subtle sateen finish. Originally I was thinking silk but I chose a lower cost option so I could test the outcome and also wear it more often. I also wanted a slightly retro look in the fabric
  • Interlining: lightweight cotton (not my best choice as it did not have great body and was difficult to handle but then I did want a washable option)
  • Lining: Red poly acetate - cost related choice again but it was a pain to handle (especially during cutting and marking)
Not the greatest photos but I promise to post photos of me wearing the dress...
Front - boat neck fitted bodice

Side view
Side view - hand inserted side zip

Back view - V neckline

Here's what I learned:-
  • After the muslin fitting, I spent ages adjusting the muslin (darts etc) and reassembling the toile to make sure I had the fit correct. It was worth it. It was so fantastic to have a garment that fitted regardless of size or shape. It make a huge difference
  • I followed Susan's assembly techniques pretty much to the letter. Hand basting, interlining, inserting the lining by hand - the whole nine yards. Again, it was so worth it - the dress is an absolute dream to wear! The interlining and lining makes the garment feel more "substantial", "luxurious" and comfortable to wear.
  • I enjoyed the handsewing! Not so much the thread tracing but inserting the lining and zip by hand was easier than I thought and you get more control. Even prick stitching the lining so it didn't roll past the fashion fabric was really satisfying to do. 
  • I will absolutely use this muslin pattern again. I could use it to adjust the front neckline for variety. Because the shape is so classic - it lends itself to variation in fabric and some alterations eg. sleeves.
  • I learned lots of patience and I can still hear my other half say "is it worth it?" The answer is "yes, absolutely!".
  • I've resolved to make fewer garment (not than I'm a prolific sewer anyway) but make them better. I'm aiming for a couple of garments a season. 
How do you feel about the garments you make? Which ones do you enjoy wearing often or make again?


  1. This is wonderful and so worth the effort. A great result. Interlined garments are very luxe to wear :)

    1. Thanks Dilliander for your encouragement - yes - it's definately very luxe to wear.

  2. Lovely work Sue Ellen - fabulous dress - looking forward to pics of you in it!

  3. Hoping to get pics taken while in Italy!!!

  4. What a beautiful dress - well worth the effort. Better to make one beautiful dress well than to rush and produce lots of things. I definitely would spend the time (and it does take time) to produce one beautifully made garment. Would love to see your pics from Italy - of course wearing the dress. Have a fantastic trip!!

  5. Thanks Evelyne - hoping to do some fabric shopping too :)


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