I’m in a sewing groove, if you will. I know–after many a style stumble and failed attempts at being trendy or wearing things that I’m not comfortable in–what works for me and what doesn’t. 99% of the time, I stick with my formula and my projects come together very well. I know where I can experiment and try new things (mainly through color or prints), and I’m happy to challenge myself and venture a little outside the box from time to time. But for the most part, I’m quite happy to stay in my lane, and I happen to really, really love my style.
Every once in a while, though, I find myself wearing a newly finished project that I’m not completely thrilled with for one reason or another. Most of the time, the projects I dislike are the ones where I’ve forced myself into a style that doesn’t work for me or I’m not comfortable in. (See a few examples of previous disappointments in this post of project fails from the first part of the year in this post. If you read that post, just be sure to follow it up with the successful projects post, just to balance it out. 🙂 ) The dress in today’s post has me feeling a little torn, and I can’t decide if I’m truly disappointed with it or not. It’s entirely possible that I’ve just been looking at it too much and I’m being overly critical, but I can’t decide if it’s a styling issue or a it-looks-like-a-robe-to-me-now kind of thing.
This dress is Vogue 9253, and it’s hardly a stretch to call it one of Vogue’s most popular patterns of the summer. I’ve seen some truly stunning versions on social media, which is where a lot of inspiration to sew it came from. It’s also a very flattering design and easy to sew. The plunging neckline is elongating and frames the face beautifully. I love the skirt and the pockets and the kimono sleeves and the ties and the pleats on the bodice. Lots of good stuff there.
For me though, I can’t really pull off such a plunging neckline, which is my way of saying that I can wear it but I’m not actually comfortable wearing it. My solution to this was to cut the dress as is but add lace trim around the neckline. My original idea was to only add the trim around the neckline, hem, and along the edges of the ties. I wanted it in those three specific areas so that the eye was drawn there, top to bottom: neckline, empire waistline, and hem. I had no plans to put it on the sleeves or down center front.
This dress has a center front seam in the skirt, and it was really distracting. I didn’t like it all, so in order to cover up the ugly center front seam, I added lace on either side of it. Then, I eliminated the idea of lace around the hem and the self ties, and I added it to the hem of the sleeves instead. I really like the placement of the lace (mirrored down center front, hugging the edge of the hem on the sleeve), but it does bother me that the lace around the neckline isn’t set against the white fabric like it is on the skirt and sleeves. If the lace was around the neckline but on the dress itself, I think I might like that a bit better for continuity. But then we’d have the low neckline again. Quite frankly (and this is my honest thought as I’m typing this), I think I should make that change and get over this silly nonsense about not being comfortable in the low neckline. So I have a dress in my closet with an extremely low neckline that I only wear twice a year and requires body makeup and special bra cups and nothing less than perfect posture at all times? Would that be the worst thing?
I didn’t make any significant adjustments to the pattern, except to shorten the waist ties a little and make the skirt hem 1 1/4″ instead of 5/8″. I made the hem deeper because I added 1″ horsehair braid to the hem to give it a little more structure and support the added weight of the lace down the front.
I made bias tape for the full measurement of the neckline, not just the back as the pattern suggests. This way, I could sew the lace in between the bodice and the bias tape. Keeps it in its place nicely. I also added a piece of grosgrain ribbon next to the zipper. The pattern instructs you to sew the bias tape on first and then install the zipper. That would have been fine if I hadn’t waited to serge my center back seams until after I’d sewn the bias tape. The result was a bit of a mess that I didn’t like.
The cover up.
The sleeve hem.
I’m always saying that sewing and creating is a journey, and it’s projects like this–the stuff we’re less than thrilled with–that prove that point. Everything can’t be another oh-my-goodness-I-love-this-so-much winner. Now, you better believe that I do aim for a steady stream of outstanding pieces I absolutely adore, but it doesn’t always work out that way. To not share this dress with you would be disingenuous to the process. It would also be insincere and icky. Because I don’t care who you are, the “meh” stuff happens every once in a while. We all have the box of unfinished or abandoned projects or a secret closet where the disappointments stay hidden until the end of time. The point is to figure out why something didn’t work and make a note of that for the future. It’s also worth mentioning that you should never feel like you have to force yourself into something that you know won’t work for you just to try something “new” or simply because you’ve seen so many other people look fabulous in it.
Your style is exactly that: your style. Just because you may not look as amazing in a plunging neckline as someone else doesn’t diminish how ravishing you may look in something else. Be true to who you are and make what you like and what works for you.
We got the keys to our new house this week, and the movers will be here in a couple of days. It’s been a whirlwind couple of weeks with the sorting and packing and excitement of it all. I’m to the point where I’m ready for the actual move to be over and done with so I can start enjoying the new space. We went to the new house as soon as we got the keys the other day, and it was the first time we’ve seen it empty. I really like seeing houses empty. I don’t need to see staged rooms or other people’s things scattered everywhere. I can visualize what a space will look like much better when there’s nothing in it. We have big plans for the terrible kitchen, and I’m also making a few updates to the studio next weekend. Looking forward to sharing that with you soon.
Wish us luck for a smooth move this weekend, and I’ll be back soon with more new garments. I’m really excited about the things I’m showing you in the coming weeks. It’s good stuff.
We walked out of the new house yesterday morning to this. Deer, everywhere. I’m over the moon about the charm of this house and the neighborhood. Definitely getting some rockers for those magnificent porches too.
Have a great weekend!
Until a few weeks ago, my Instagram profile had a line in it about “building a handmade wardrobe.” A quick browse of other like-minded sewing and design accounts will say the same thing, and I love that there’s folks out there who are investing their time, money, and skills towards such a admirable goal. Some people approach it from a sustainability perspective, making a conscious choice not to buy fast fashion, instead investing in a few natural textiles to build a capsule collection of clothes. Other folks are tired of the endless frustration of never finding well fitting or well made things in stores and are inspired to take matters into their own hands. There are a lot of reasons to sew your own clothes, and I just love connecting with fellow sewers and watching them create a handmade wardrobe.
The thing is, I’m not necessarily interested in sewing an entire wardrobe from scratch. I have exactly zero interest in making undergarments, and the chances of me ever making a pair of jeans are slim – my Levi’s suit me just fine for the three or four months a year it’s actually cool enough to wear them. No camis or tank tops for me, thanks. T-shirts, swimsuits, workout gear? Nope, nope, and nope.
For as much as I believe in creating a wardrobe full of special pieces and handmade, unique items that no one else has, I also recognize that there’s plenty of things sold in stores that are done really, really well and there’s no need for me to try and do any better. There are more than enough great fitting tees to choose from, and I promise the perfect pair of jeans is out there too. So, as much as I love adding handmade piece to my closet every week, I will never have an entirely handmade wardrobe, and I’m okay with that.
All of this to say that the dress in today’s post came about not because I was inspired by the pattern itself (although now having made it, I can say that it’s utterly fantastic) or by the fabric, but by a store bought dress I have in my closet. It’s a rayon knit wrap dress I got from Hobbs in London last year, and it is wonderful. It’s one of those pieces you can just throw on and walk out the door, and it’s comfortable all day long. Every time I put it on I think, “Huh, I really need to copy this dress. I could use about a dozen versions of it.” So I finally did a little digging in my pattern stash earlier this summer when I was planning new projects, and decided it was time to give Vogue 8379 a shot. It was the closest thing I could find to the Hobbs dress.
This pattern has been out for quite some time, and it’s been made umpteen times by just about everyone – and for good reason. Of all the patterns I’ve used recently, this one stands out for its excellent fit right out of the envelope and for how easily it came together. My fabric is a cotton stretch I found at Fashion Fabrics Club earlier this year (I believe it’s sold out now), and I like it for the colors and print, and also because it’s not polyester. I work with poly every once in a blue moon, but I do try to avoid it whenever possible. It’s just not my favorite. This cotton jersey has nice stretch and recovery, and it was pretty easy to work with. Knits aren’t my go-to fabrics, but it was a nice change of pace to make a knit dress after so many projects with woven fabrics.
I made only very minor adjustments to the pattern. I added 2″ to the hem of the skirt, and I left off the cuff in view B. Because I left the cuff off, I added about an 1.5″ to the length of the sleeve to keep it a true 3/4 sleeve length. I also angled the ends of the ties, simply because I like the way that looks.
No swayback adjustment, no length to the bodice, no neckline adjustment, and I cut the same size in this dress that I cut in every other Vogue pattern.
This fabric is a lightweight stretch fabric, so I used a size 75 stretch needle, regular thread, and stretch interfacing on the facings (this Pellon interfacing is great for stretch garments). I put my sewing machine in “stretch light” mode, so it automatically sews a knit stitch. If your fabric is especially unwieldy or you need extra stability in the hem, you can always interface that as well.
You don’t necessarily have to finish the edges of knit garments because they won’t unravel like wovens, but I still serge all the edges and understitch where appropriate.
Here you can see the ends of the ties that I cut at an angle and a peek of the hem of the sleeve. I used a blind hem to finish the hems of the sleeves and the skirt. I don’t have a cover stitch machine, and I don’t always like a visible line of stitching along the hem–especially on a print dress–which is why I went with a blind hem. I love a nice, clean finish.
The skirt hem.
Pleats at the waistline.
This is a true wrap dress, so there’s an opening in the left side seam for the tie to feed through and wrap around you.
This is one of those classic dresses that you can make in a lot of different colors and prints, and I will definitely be making this one again and again. I’ve started a royal blue version, and I’m excited to finish it as soon as we’re settled in the new house.
Speaking of the new house, packing is coming along, and we’ll be moving in a few days. Ty and I have moved quite a lot in the past ten years, but this is the first time we’re moving into our own home, so we’re especially excited. I can’t wait to get in the house and show you my new studio space and share our big remodel plans for the kitchen. In the meantime, the packing continues!
Thank you for the kind words and best wishes for this adventure!
My dad has a saying about buying things: always get two. Found the perfect pair of jeans? Get two. Need a pack of batteries? Get two. Now, of course I don’t make it a habit of buying or making two of everything, but it’s a good concept to keep in mind. The idea of making two (or multiples, as is the case with me quite often) makes sense to me in sewing. We invest so much time and energy into making our clothes, why not get as much value out of it as you possibly can?
When I’m making a garment I’m focused on three things: how it fits, how I feel in it, and how well it works for my lifestyle. In the year and a half that I’ve been rebuilding my wardrobe, I’ve discovered a handful of patterns that for a variety of reasons work especially well for me. I’ll put a few examples at the end of this post, but Vogue 9251 is another one of those patterns. Funny enough, I never would have thought it would make the list of multiple makes, because the low neckline isn’t something I’m too comfortable in. Turns out, the fit and easy construction makes up for that. And don’t get me started on those darling sleeves. The other thing I like about this pattern is that you can draft a number of different skirts onto the bodice, which can change things up quite dramatically.
The first time I made this dress I was in make-everything-you-possibly-can mode prior to my Memorial Day trip to Nashville, so I didn’t make a muslin for the dress (something I never skip). The bodice turned out to be a little short on me, but I loved the dress and I knew I would make it again. So, I lengthened the bodice by about 1.5″, which was as easy as cutting the pattern along the “lengthen or shorten line,” taping paper underneath to add the length, and truing the sides. I also made a swayback adjustment to the back bodice (which is why the dart looks a little wonky).
For this version, I chose a stunning rayon twill print, and not only does it feel like butter it’s also completely opaque, meaning it can stand alone as a dress without a lining.
The thing that makes this version so interesting is the difference in the drape of the fabric. The fabric I used for this dress is a suggested fabric for the pattern, but the linen I used before is not. The linen version is in no way bad or wrong, it’s just different. This side by side of the sleeves demonstrates the characteristics of each fabric really well.
The linen on the left is a medium weight so it’s naturally more stiff and voluminous. It has lovely drape, but notice how it drapes away from my arm more than the rayon sleeve.
I drafted a full skirt for this rayon version, simply because I had enough fabric, and I absolutely love a full, floaty rayon skirt that swooshes as much as possible when I walk. I also knew that the fabric would fall along the bias, so instead of worrying about maintaining the shape of the skirt from the pattern while keeping it level, I went with something full that would need to be leveled the same amount all the way around. I left the dress on the form for a couple of days to let the fabric fall as much as possible, and then I evened it out. You can see here just how much the fabric relaxed. (For more on leveling a hem, see this post from last fall.)
When I can, I like to make my own bias tape, and I was able to do that for this dress. I love how it looks.
I used snaps to close the linen dress, but I followed the pattern instructions this time and made bias strips for the side ties. This limits me to only being able to wear the dress like this (can’t really put a belt on top of the ties, that’d be weird), but I like them. They stay tied too, which was my biggest concern.
I can’t tell you how comfortable this dress is. It’s probably as close to wearing jimmy jams as you can get.
I’ll be making this dress at least one more time, and I’m very excited about this version. I’ll be using a very lightweight blue floral rayon crepe and making the maxi version (view B). I’m going with the skirt from the pattern (no changes this time), but I am toying with the idea of adding a ruffle to the neckline. The fabric is so delicate and drapes so nicely that I think a ruffle might be lovely added detail.
I’m delighted that this pattern worked so well, and with (soon to be) three versions of it, I can file it under the “multiple makes” category, along with a few other cherished patterns.