Tuesday 25 September 2012

The Experiment Dress

I've called my latest creation The Experiment Dress because it was a first for me on several levels:

  • First go at a real vintage pattern (oh the excitement!);
  • First attempt with a border print; 
  • First "jumper" dress;
  • First try with the 60's style (OK you can't really see that now, but see my explanation below). 
All in all, it turned out OK - I'm not exactly feeling over the moon with it, but I'm not overly upset with it either.  

So I got my hands on this lovely vintage pattern from a really cute shop called Berylune when I visited Leamington Spa (it opened a few months ago, and it runs craft classes), and I simply couldn't wait to rip it open (...don't worry, it was just a figure of speech; I was in fact very careful with this beautiful piece of "antique") and make a start on it. It is the vintage Simplicity 7270, dated from 1967. It was a "how to sew" pattern, including a page of detailed instructions on how to interface a neckline. And yes it was a pattern for teenagers, but the sizing appeared perfect for me, at first glance. 

I wanted to make a "jumper" dress for this cool autumn weather, so I used my second "coupon" from Paris which was a heavyweight viscose. To prove this to you, see picture below (don't be shy mum) the beautiful fabric wrapped around my wonderful mum at the top of the Eiffel Tower (she was cold, and, well, she rocked this look)! 

As you can see, it has a quirky border print, and as with my other "coupon", it was €10 for 3 whole metres! I wanted to experiment with this, and this 60's dress seemed like the perfect candidate, as the dress front and back pieces are basically 2 rectangles (alarm bells ringing in my head) so it shouldn't be too tricky to keep the border print under control. 

So I spent ages trying to ensure that the neckline/front and back yokes have symmetrical prints (and the bits of the fabric that I want), and the bold print at the bottom sits centrally, and that the skirt will finish where the border finishes, whilst keeping the length at the desired level, just above my knee. I think all that has worked out well. 

I had a bit of a problem with the fit though. OK that was an understatement - the finished dress looked like a huge sack on me! I should've seen this coming - the rectangles were gathered at the top for the chest area, and of course that meant that the waistline was going to be larger than the bust. D'oh! Part of the problem was also that I was so excited to work with a vintage pattern, I didn't want to alter the pattern, and also was too lazy to trace out all the pattern pieces. 

Perhaps the 60s style is just not made for me. I prefer a closer fit at the best of times, so I had to do something. So I added 4 darts, 2 front darts at 3cm width, and 2 back darts at 2cm width each, and also included curved side seams, taking in 3cm at each side, and had a whopping 4.5cm seam allowance at the centre back. So you get the idea! I took in over 40cm at the waist! 

Given what I had to work with, the finished product didn't seem all that bad, although of course, it no longer had the 60s style in my opinion. 

I also got to try out a "visible" centred dress zipper (I couldn't quite bring myself to insert an invisible zipper to this vintage number), and it wasn't too bad at all, apart from all the unpicking when adjusting the fit. In fact I would say that it was easier than inserting invisible zippers. I didn't follow the instruction on the pattern here; rather I referred to my Dressmaker's Technique Bible and basted the seams first before sewing on the zipper closed. Here's a picture of it from the back: 

As usual, I would be interested in hearing what you think! Do you think this looks grown up enough for work? Perhaps over the purple shirt? Or for dress down Fridays, under a long-sleeved top (ok, maybe not that white one in the photo above, but a dark top)? I don't feel like I love it, but maybe it'll grow on me...


  1. Wow, you had a whole lot of "first's" there!!! Well I love this so way to go for "knocking this one out of the park" (sorry about baseball ref.). I really do love this dress. It's very unique and I wouldn't have thought to use the print in the way you did. You've got quite the point of view. And I also like it's diversity---the purple shirt with it makes it office friendly and in warmer weather you could definitely rock it without! Nice job!!!

    1. Thank you, Victoria! I'm glad you love this (I sure wish I did!)and your comment has made me feel better about it already. Thank you!
      P.S. I wanted to throw in a baseball ref too but I don't know any! x

  2. It's far better with the darts!!! Good idea! :)
    I would wear it at work with a long sleeved shirt under it.

  3. I think you did very well on the placement of the borders and it is really pretty.

    1. Thank you kindly Sertyan - that makes me feel so much better! x

  4. This looks super cute on you, and I think it's totally office-appropriate! I waffle a bit with mid-60's patterns, too-- I'm really drawn to the look, but then I feel a bit frumpy without any waist definition. But your alterations look great! Love the border print!

    1. Thank you! Maybe I'll try it without a shirt/top underneath too, when the weather turns nicer again! One of the ladies on PR said that the 60s style is not entirely lost in the alterations, so maybe we CAN have the style and a bit of waist definition.

  5. Hey Alice, I really like the dress. In my view, I think that you have made it more flattering on you than the original pattern, yet you can see the 60s inspiration. You can wear it in so many ways - have you thought of matching the color of the long sleeved top and tights? Black top and black tights pull it together or go crazy with purple..........

    1. Hi Susuan, thank you for your kind words! what a great idea - I shall be sure to try out the maching idea! I have black top and tights, and also purple! woo and red!! The options are endless ;-) Thank you for the inspiration.


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