Wednesday, June 4, 2008

A dress for strolling in the sunshine

UPDATED! I got a petticoat to wear with this dress! Pictures here.

Vogue 2960 is a success! After my last dismal failure, this one is especially rewarding. It's not perfect, but it has earned a place in my Problem-Solving Triumphs category. How much do I like this dress? I like it enough that I insisted on a photo in a nice outdoor setting, with a little lipstick and everything! I'll even let you see it without my head being cut off. Sorry for the lag in posting, but this dress took an extra week to finish and photograph. It's worth it.

Vogue 2960 in a cloud print cotton. Yes, that's what I look like these days...except my gray streaks are more noticable in person Vogue 2960, a reproduction of a vintage pattern from 1954. Click for Vogue listing.
I feel skinnier in this dress than the photo would suggest. And I am skinnier for real too! I'm at 145ish now, even after some gluttonous celebratory dinners. I'm almost ready for the swimsuit experiment!

I changed the front closure from nine buttons to fourteen pearly (western shirtish?) snaps. Yes, I used a hammer to finish this dress. (The snaps required some serious problem-solving, but I'll put that info at the end with the more technical sewing stuff.) I had to hurry to finish it in time for Art on the Square, so I didn't do the inside belt. I considered the first outing a trial run.

The weather for Art on the Square was beautiful, but windy. This is the fullest skirt I've worn in my entire life, and I was not prepared for the sail-like effect of a skirt with about 160 inches of fullness. I kept thinking I needed to cut some slits to let the wind pass through it. Wind notwithstanding, this dress deserves a petticoat. (For visuals, see here and here.) My other observations were that the dress kept sliding off my shoulders and that the bodice sometimes gaped enough to offer a clear view to my navel. The combination of my sunken chest, poor posture, and love of wide shouldered bodices (to balance the giant ass/thighs) always adds up to major gapage. Using what I learned in the trial run, I spent another week fiddling with the shoulders, the inside belt and the center front closure issues. Then, I finally declared the dress finished.

Matt and I celebrated our anniversary (five years!) over the weekend, and I asked if we could go to the Missouri Botanical Garden together before we went out for a celebratory dinner. Sure I wanted to see the roses (spectacular) and the new sculpture exhibit (not so much), but what I really wanted was to wear this dress in an appropriate setting. My problem with many of the full-skirted vintage/retro dresses is that they feel too girly for work or running around town. They seem to demand a place to stroll leisurely to enjoy the swishiness of the skirts. The Garden is the perfect place for strolling in a spring dress, and a great place to get a picture. I enjoyed sitting outside at the cafe, people-watching and appreciating that my modifications to the bodice allowed me to slouch a little without making my belly button visible to the public. It was a good day. And the best part is that Matt got me a membership to the Garden! Now I have a place to wear ridiculous dresses. Ergo, I have justification to make more ridiculous dresses! Matt has moved from tolerating my dress habit to enabling it. Priceless!

And now, for the sewing people, the tedious sewing details. I tried lot of new things on this one, so it's a long post. Feel free to skip all this, but please leave me a comment anyway!

Fabric: The fabric is a 100% cotton home dec print (60", $3/yd at the final closing sale of Discount Decorating Warehouse in O'Fallon, IL). I used a very pale icy blue thin cotton from the stash for the facings. I did not interface the bodice facings, only the pieces for the center front closure as explained in the instructions. The facings are fine without interfacing. I'm becoming convinced that interfacing the facings is unnecessary, and that it's a vast conspiracy to sell more interfacing.

Tweaking the pleats to match the bodice adjustmentsPattern Adjustments: I cut the pattern pieces in a size 12, adding an inch of length at the adjustment line (just above waist). I cut the skirt four inches shorter than the pattern, but then I didn't use the full 2 inches allowed for the hem. It turned out about 25" from the waist, just below my knee. I made the darts shorter and shallower, which made them not line up with the pleats. I tried to adjust the pleats to match up, but I didn't quite get the angles right when I repinned them. The don't quite hang in a perfect array like they should. A petticoat would probably help.

Assembly: I didn't use the pattern piece provided for reinforcing the buttonholes. I knew I would be using snaps, and that the interfaced fabric and self-facing would be sturdy enough for my snaps. I also ignored the cutting guide and directions for the inside belt. I used a swimsuit hook (instead of hooks and eyes) for a closure, and I hand stitched the belt to the seam allowance instead of machine stitching it.

Hemmed with single-fold bias tape, straight stitched on the machineHemming: I used Summerset's suggestion for machine-stitching single-fold bias tape to the inside of the hem, and then turning it up and straight-stitching it. It took approximately a package and a half (4.5 yards) of bias tape. Life's too short to hem a ~162" skirt by hand!

Snaps: I used snaps instead of buttons. They make me happy. They were pretty fast to apply - much faster than doing a comparable number of buttons and buttonholes! Since the snaps were smaller than the recommended button size (5/8", nine buttons), I increased the number and decreased the spacing. It turns out that fourteen snaps, placed one inch apart with 1/2" at the top and bottom is perfect. OK, maybe it's slight overkill, but I like the effect. Matt also hinted that the snaps add a little bodice-ripping appeal to the dress. (I've never found snaps to be particularly sexy, but I will be filing Matt's comment away for consideration on future projects.

The trickiest part was the snaps at the underbust seam There are lots of layers of fabric there. I had a hard time getting the little prongs of the snap pieces to go through far enough to clinch together when I hammered them together. I improvised with a pearly (female half) snap that went through the top layer of the dress only - this one is strictly for decoration. Then I used an extra (female half) snap left over from the orange shirt applied to the self facing. This snap isn't visible from the outside, but it is the functional snap. I almost-invisibly tacked the facing to the dress front right around the pearly snap. I applied the male half of the snap (to the dress layer only) the underlapping bodice piece. The self-facing on the underlapping bodice piece conveniently keeps the back of all the male snaps from touching me. I love it when it works out that way!

This is the only place a dart and a pleat actually line up correctly. Whatever. You can also see the some of the snap and fastener shenanigans in this picAfter the trial run, I decided that the decorative snap at the underbust seam was fine, but the functional snap at the underbust seam wasn't getting the job done. With the wiggle room amongst all the layers and snaps, the underbust wasn't tight and defined. As a small busted person, it's really important to me to make the underbust area tight so that my bust doesn't blend into my waist. I removed the hidden functional snap piece and added a flat fastener (like you would use for a waistband) at the underbust seam. I did some careful tacking at the folded edge of the placket to make sure that the strain of containing my heaving bosom didn't pull the fabric away and expose the fastener. It's much better now.

And finally, my favorite problem-solver:

I put red pins along the edge of the elastic to show where it goes. The facing is tacked to the dress in a couple spots to keep the elastic contained.Elastic: After the trial run, I experimented with elastic to fix the shoulder problems. I found a way to fix the gaping neckline at the same time. The solution was to apply a piece of 3/8" elastic (what I had handy) between the dress and the facing, and anchor it to the seam allowance at the shoulder seam and at the underbust seam near the center front. I first tried anchoring the elastic at the center back waist seam and then running it over the shouder (enclosed in the facing) and anchoring it at the front underbust. Even with very little tension, that method only succeeded in pulling up the back of the skirt. Going from the shoulder to the front works very well. When I stand normally, it doesn't have a noticeable effect but it does keep the dress on my shoulders. When I slouch, the front of the dress collapses in soft lumps between the shoulder and bust instead of gaping outward or slipping off my shoulders. Success!

Ideas That Should Have Occurred To Me Sooner:

  • Leaving extra length at the shoulders until I could do a fitting. I realized that the shoulder seams would be critical for the dress, so I cut them extra long. I didn't trim them or sew them together until after Matt helped me pin-fit them on my actual self. Barbie just isn't accurate enough for that find of fitting. It turns out that I needed the extra length on the bodice back pieces, but not as much on the front pieces. Leaving the pieces long wasn't nearly as intimidating as trusting measurements to do a forward shoulder adjustment.
  • Re-marking my actual waist line while wearing the bodice, after the bodice was assembled but before attaching the skirt. I don't know why this never occurred to me before. I put the bodice on, and then used my waist-measuring loop of elastic to find my true waist. I marked right along the edge of the elastic, added my seam allowance, and trimmed off the excess. What I trimmed off wasn't even all the way around, so if I hadn't done this extra step, my waist seam wouldn't have turned out right. I'm sure the contortions to mark the line caused some error, but it still sits at my waist better than other dresses I have made.

Vogue 2960 on Sew Retro
Vogue 2960 on Pattern Review


MadeByAmanda said...

I love the fabric you used. I also struggle with feeling overdressed when wearing light summery dresses out and about (basically anytime that is not a special occasion or church). But they're so pretty!

And happy anniversary!

Marji said...

Your dress looks fabulous on you, and it sounds as if you got a lot of new knowledge out of sewing this retro pattern.
I'd love to make up one of my retro dress patterns and meet you at the gardens for a stroll sometime this summer.

Mrs Boyer said...

Let's go strolling!!! Congrats on the garden membership!!! We have to set a date to go wearing fantastic girly dresses!!!

tea said...

Ooh! I love the V2960. It's my favorite to make.

Tara said...

Thanks so much for posting this! I'm planning to make this dress and your experience will be really helpful. You look great in it too, by the way! Nice job!

Nadia said...

I love this dress! The pattern is great -- I looove midriff bands -- and so is the whimsical cloud print!

*tons of applause!*

The Crafty Academic said...

I have to chime in on the cloud fabric, what a great choice for the dress!

Minnie said...

i love it. i've been sitting on this pattern for so long, afraid to try it! yours looks great and i love the cloud fabric. so cheerful!