I almost called this the killer dress, but I realised I have said this before very recently! What is it with me choosing maddening projects when I really don’t have the time to faff around, when I have about one hundred other deadlines and I honestly rather be sewing something else? Because I’m a sewing masochist, that’s why!! I have read the reviews on Pattern Review about this one, so I knew people said it was hard. It’s Vogue Designer, right, so what else can it be, it comes with the territory, of course it does. But we all get a bit tunnel visioned, don’t we? And boy, do I ever (PTSD flashback to the cherry dress from the Sewing Bee *slaps forehead*!).
People, this dress is hard! Or it was for me. I spent waaay too much time on it, some of it my fault, as I made stupid mistakes, but the rest it was this blinkin’ pattern! Now don’t get me wrong, the design is awesome! But there is something about Vogue Designer that always seems to me like scratching your left ear with your right hand going around your head (it’s a Romanian phrase, sure won’t make any sense to anyone who is not Romanian, so don’t worry too much). I’m sure no one ever actually hand-stitches in factories where the designer clothes are made (haute couture excluded), so why in the name of all that is good about sewing, are they making us do it! I’m sure there are tips and tricks in the industry on how to construct stuff without having to pick up needle and thread. Only hemming gets a free pass, as I never really mastered the blind stitch on the sewing machine.
Ok, rant over.
On to the dress… There are a few exciting things going on here, like the collaboration with MyFabrics.co.uk, which provided this beautiful fabric for me to review.
Collaboration with MyFabrics.co.uk
What seems like ages ago I was approached by MyFabrics.co.uk to test some of their products. The online shop is run family business based in Germany, called FabFab. They own online shops in many countries in Europe which sell fabrics, patterns, haberdashery and yarn (look them up, I’m sure there might be a website in your language). I don’t shop online too much, so when they approached me, I was curious to see what they were about.
What I liked about the website is that it’s very well put together, visual, with good filtering options and good categorisation. They have really nice product pictures, large and with flat, scrunched and right/wrong views, which I haven’t seen on other sites (again, I don’t shop much online). I also liked that they have products in that particular fabric so you can get an idea of how it could look in real life. I think this is really handy for online shopping.
As to selection, I found it quite varied – and had a really hard time making a decision, to begin with. You know I’m not a prints person, so I didn’t even look at any of that. But what I did notice was that they had a good selection of plain fabrics, which looks to be of good quality, from what I can see on the site. I liked that they also stock their own range of organic GOTS certified cotton fabric in a wide range of colours, so good options for the more eco-conscious. I found the info on the product page helpful, as it also included the weight, feel/handling, whether it’s knit or woven, if it’s shiny or matte, the image size for print reference, dye info and if it’s certified (like GOTS) and type of garments it could be used for. Again, I don’t see that level of detail very often. Definitely thumbs up!
I found the prices a mid-range and up, especially on some products (wools for example), but I guess I have been spoilt in the past with charity shop fabric and a certain fabric heaven Up North. However, I feel that this would be a good place to go for a super specific purchase, like stretch lining (more on that in a bit), organic cotton etc.
Also, I would recommend ordering in good time, as they ship from Germany, and it can take a few days to arrive, no next day options as far as I can see.
Overall, I was very happy with my fabric selection and the customer journey and I would definitely consider them in the future!
So, let me tell you more about the dress…
The main fabric is a fabulous stretch poly crepe fabric that I really loved sewing with! Unfortunately, it seems to be out of stock, . It’s medium weight, with a more rugged texture on the right side and a bit of a smoother and shinier wrong side. Turned out not the wisest choice for this pattern, as the cowl’s wrong side is showing, but I clearly did not think it through when I ordered the fabric. However, the superstar of this project was the lining, also stretch. It was just awesome! I had never sewn with stretch lining before and I fell in love as soon as I took it out of the parcel. It’s smooth, shiny without being slippery and you guessed, it’s stretchy. Not loads to be annoying and hard to handle, but just enough to make wearing the garment so much more comfortable.
The pattern is a Vogue Designer collection, and I think it came out in spring last year. You can watch a McCalls video to hear more about it. It is a close-fitting lined dress which has a deep cowl that may be draped as desired, front princess seams on the bodice, and open back. The bodice is self-lined and the cowl had a drawstring+stopper to adjust the opening.
I am a fairly experienced seamstress, but this was quite a difficult sew. I have seen other people saying they also struggled, so I’m not feeling too bad about my travails. There are a lot of details and instructions that made no sense to me and it took a lot of head scratching and sometimes, plain fudging, to get it finished.
The main feature, in my opinion, is the open back, as well as the dramatic cowl. I love a bit of showing off of skin in a tasteful way, and I think this hits the mark. Especially since the front is quite demure. The tasteful effect does get a bit spoilt by the difficulties of finding a suitable bra that does not show. You can potentially use bra extenders, but I did not wear any in these pictures. Maybe because the fabric was quite thick and the bodice is self-lined, plus I am not too well endowed, I can potentially get away with it.
Here it is on the mannequin:
You will need a 14” invisible zipper, but I got away with a 7” one as that was the only suitable colour I had in my stash, though it was a bit touch and go. You will need a hook & eye and a stopper for the cord if you use one. I wish I had used a bit of iron-on interfacing on the seam allowance of the lining at the slit, it would have made life easier.
Alterations & Fit
I cut a size 12, based on finished measurements, but I ended up taking loads off the side seams the bodice. I’m not sure if it was the stretch fabric (I had made a toile in woven fabric with no give at all) or the fact that I got on WeightWatchers between the toile and starting the project and I lost a few pounds, but it definitely came out on the bigger side. If I make it again, I would definitely cut a size 10 or even 8 on the top and maybe a 10 on the skirt. And because this one time I joined #teamtrace, I can just recopy it!
I have a very narrow back and I always end up taking out at least 1 cm on the CB. This time I took out 1/2”, and also took out 1/4” from the shoulder seams on both sides. I also took out 3/8” out of side seams and a large wedge of more than 2” from the cowl where it attaches to the back neckline, as it was making the back gape way too much.
In terms of design changes, I omitted the drawstring from the cowl as my fabric was not as drapey as the sample. I also had to omit the back vent, as I could not for the life of me put it together in a correct way. To be honest, because of it being a bit big and the stretch, it’s absolutely fine. But if you are making this in woven fabric, you will need it.
I feel the front of the cowl is a bit too low, so next time I would add 3/8” to the seam to raise it a bit.
I also did not finish the cowl with Hong Kong seams, or the bias binding on the bottom edge. I use a flat felled seam on the cowl and just turn and topstich on the edge.
I can believe I’ve written 1500 words and only just got to the hardest part. Boy, was this a head-scratcher or what!? When I made the toile, it seemed quite simple. But it’s the lining that makes everything so much more complicated, as well as the recommended finishing.
I was really lucky that my fabric does not fray at all so I could manipulate it as hard as I wanted to without any complaints. I put the zipper in twice and unpicked the basting about 10 times, as well as the lining which had been machined to the zipper tape. Not even a trace!
So, about the lining. The main thing is to make sure you DO NOT sew the side seams until almost at the very last! You would have sewn the cowl, the back zipper, the vent before you end up sewing the side seams.
As it’s almost impossible to describe in words how to sew the armhole seams, which seems to be the most unclear part, I recorded a video with the method I used. Hopefully, it will be clear enough. (This is the first video I ever recorded for the blog, so hope you don’t have a shock at the sound of my voice and my accent, I absolutely hate hearing myself!).
Once that part clicked, it was quite straightforward to sew. But what I really struggled with was the vent. I tried everything I could think of to put it together, including Sara Alm’s awesome Lining Course on Craftsy , but I just could not get it to work out in a satisfactory way. After literally hours of torture, I gave in and just sewn the back seam all the way down. I had already cut one side of the vent on the lining, so had to cut off the other one, and got left with a big bit missing. I am planning to keep practising that, it’s turning into my sewing bogey and I hate that.
I also had some issues with attaching the cowl, as the distance between the notches on the back was huge, so I had to take out a big wedge to make it work.
In terms of finishing, the bodice is machine sewn as per the video. On the zipper, the lining was machine sewn to the zipper tape. I finished the hem by hand, and again, the fabric came up trumps. It’s so spongy that the stitches were completely invisible. The lining hem was overlocked and turned over once.
Style and Wear
I was meant to make this for a wedding I was going to in November, but because my sewing room revamp took so much longer than expected, I didn’t even start it before my Cuban holiday. So it was finished in mid-Jan, but unfortunately, January is not too forthcoming in opportunities to wear cocktail dresses. However, I am sort of killing two birds with one stone: I have something new and ready to go for a wedding I’m going to in April AND I can use this to enter the Day and Night Dress Challenge 2018, as my Night Cocktail dress. Win! I just need to sort my ‘coffee date’ dress for the Day part and I’m in business.
Anyhow, back to wearing. The pattern has loads of wear options, but in reality, based on the drape on my fabric, probably the straight front cowl is the best option. As I said, it’s not ideal that you can see the wrong side, so I don’t want to wear it in a way that highlights this. Also, my fabric is a bit thicker than the sample and does not have so much drape, so I have to keep it straight.
Here are a few variations just for playfulness sake.
As with any difficult makes, I’m sure sewing it would be so much simpler the second time around. But I still feel a bit bruised and not sure I want to put myself through that again anytime soon. Plus it’s such a distinctive pattern that I’m not sure I really want two of them. And I can’t think how to hack it, maybe something like a peplum top just using the bodice part…
Pattern: Vogue V1531, size 12
Fabric: stretch crepe main fabric, stretch lining both from MyFabrics.co.uk
Disclaimer: Fabric was sent to me free of charge for review purposes. All opinions are my own.
Notions: 7” invisible zipper
Alterations: Reduced CB by 3/8”, side seams by 3/8”, tapered to waistline; took out a wedge out of the cowl at the back; removed 1/4” at shoulder seams
Next time: Go down to size 8 or 10 for top blending to 10 for the bottom, but keep the CB alterations; add 3/8” to front neckline
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF VOGUE DESIGNER PATTERNS? WHAT PATTERN OF THEIRS HAVE YOU SEWN? TELL ME IN THE COMMENTS OR TWEET OR IG ME @SEWRENDIPITY!
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