I realise that having a baby and becoming a parent is, in the great scheme of things, a fairly unremarkable event. Millions of people do it every day, and have been doing it forever. But I also feel that, for the individuals involved, in their small speck of time and existence that is their life, it’s a monumental, seismic turning point. It’s clichéd and predictable, but I now categorise my life into two components: Before Baby (BB) and Post Baby (PB). One of the biggest revelations for me, is how, in PB times, my expectations and standards have altered.
What, I hear you ask, has this got to do with Vogue 2241? Well, as a matter of fact, everything. Now, I can frame this whole project in two ways. From my BB perspective, the end result of making Vogue 2241 was disappointing and below-par. It’s riddled with mistakes, the craftsmanship is dodgy, the fit isn’t perfect and I only have myself to blame. I should and could have done better, and it’s such a pity, as this is a garment I’ve wanted to make for over ten years; I owed it to Vogue 2241 to do my best.
From my PB vantage point, however, I am kinder to myself. I can say to myself: “Yes, it’s not the best work. Yes, there are flaws in the construction. But hey, I actually finally got around to making the thing, and I got to wear it! It was made in a hurry, in between part-time work and minding a toddler, and the circumstances did not allow for a fastidious and detailed process. The dress isn’t an everyday item, I’ll only wear it a few times, and if I think of it more as a costume, then its OK.” Yes, I am making excuses and justifying why it isn’t as good as it could be, but I’m learning to be OK with that”.
In hindsight, it was a pretty ambitious project to launch back into after a long period of not sewing. Let’s just check out the pattern line drawing for a second:
It’s obvious that it has complicated, non-conventional construction details, involving geometric seams and diamond shapes. That’s what makes the dress so gorgeous and interesting. But it also means the need for precision is paramount, complicated by sewing on the bias. And, wait, on closer inspection THERE ARE NO SIDE SEAMS OR BUST DARTS. So getting a perfect fit is going to be a challenge, verified by the bold disclaimer on the envelope back : No provision for above waist adjustment. Oh, and the pattern comes in single sizes only. Great. Combine all that with the need for slippery, silky fabric, and, well, it’s probably not the wisest choice to ease oneself back into sewing.
But you know how it is, all of a sudden there’s an event you have to attend soon (in this case for work) with a black tie dress code. And after a quick mental inventory of your wardrobe, you realise there isn’t anything from your BB life that will do and your bank account won’t justify purchasing a dress of quality. And then you start obsessing, and you know there’s a pattern you’ve had in your stash for years that you’ve wanted to make, and you also have the realisation that if you don’t make it now, pretty soon you won’t be able to pull off a backless dress at all, and seeing as you’ve never had the guts to wear anything that revealing in the past, you may as well just do it now. And let’s face it, in your new PB life, the chances of attending anything with a black-tie dress code are slim; it may be another 10 years before it happens again. So basically, with only a week to go, you realise there’s no choice but make Vogue 2241.
I wanted to try and stick to a relatively reasonable budget. But I also knew that if I used a cheap synthetic, I would die a bit inside, and the dress probably wouldn’t drape properly. I did a turbo hunt through The Fabric Store, dragging my toddler along, but sadly there just wasn’t a suitable, plain silk satin in a colour that suited me. (There were lots of GORGEOUS fabrics for other projects, but I demonstrated extreme restraint and didn’t buy a single thing). So a dash to Tessuti fabrics resulted in being faced with a myriad of divine colours in silk, but with a price tag that was totally out of my budget. In the end, I grabbed the ‘cheapest’ silk I could find in a colour that was acceptable and went with that. I had visions for a deep and rich peacock blue. I walked out of the store with 4.5 meters of red.
A mock-up of the dress was totally necessary. I did a trial version using old flannelette sheets (it was the only thing I had on hand. It looked ridiculous). For some unknown but lucky reason, I discovered I actually had two versions of this pattern in my stash – one in a size 8 and one in a size 12. This was most fortuitous, as the top half of my body roughly matched the 8, and the hip area pretty much matched the 12 size chart. The next challenge was combining the two sizes when all these geometric shapes needed to fit perfectly together.
I ended up tracing out a copy of the size 12. Then I placed the size 8 over it and traced it over for the shoulder and chest area. I think from memory it was about at the underarm area where I merged it into a size 12. A bit of fudging was involved. It resulted in a small wedge being taken out of the centre front, tapering to nothing at the top of the ‘diamond’, which meant the centre fold line/grain line was slightly altered. For the mock-up, I cut a straight size 12 for the skirt pieces. I was hoping that the slight blousy nature of the bodice, and the fact that the belt pulled in the back to make a few gathers/wrinkles would cover up any massive fitting issues.
I’d read on patternreview that the dress is quite short. This is indeed true. I added INCHES to the length, both on the little train pieces and on the dress itself.
A first try-on revealed that the top half worked pretty well! However, the size 12 was just a smidgen too big in the hips, and it was extremely gapey in the back. I was worried the whole dress could potentially slide off my shoulders. So I very un-scientifically pinched massive darts out of the bodice which extended into the skirt. I marked these in pen, unpicked all the pieces, pinned down the darts where I’d marked, tried to make the piece as flat as possible and traced over everything again. Unfortunately where I pinned had interfered with the existing little dart at the side hip – this required a bit of fudging and the angle of the little dart was changed. In hindsight, it’s not quite right, but too late now!
One thing that bugged me about the pattern is that it isn’t lined. The facings on it are really quite narrow. I was concerned that if the back did end up gaping, the facings would be visible, as would the wrong side of the fabric. I would have liked to have lined the skirt too, but I couldn’t find an appropriate fabric that wasn’t going to cost the earth in time, so in the end, I cut two of all the bodice pieces and settled on wearing a slip underneath for the skirt. I joined the pieces around the neckline and back opening, turned it out the right way and then used the armhole facings over both layers. Probably not a very conventional method, but it did the job.
Construction wise, all the triangle/diamond seams are top-stitched together, old-school style. It was surprisingly pain free (I had visions of seams stretching and not matching up). However, there is a LOT of hand basting involved, and it’s time consuming. That’s OK, this allowed me to become addicted to the podcast, Real Crime Profile.
The real issue I had with this dress was the back opening. The dress has no zipper, which is a relief in some ways, because I’m not a huge fan of inserting zippers into slippery fabric. Instead, it’s closed by a line of press studs along one of the diagonal seams in the back. For me, this was my undoing. I couldn’t get the seams to line up nicely. The press studs kept coming apart. Right when I’d thought I’d sewn them in the right spot, all of a sudden they wouldn’t match up. The seam was bubbly and didn’t sit flat, and it did not feel secure.
In the end, I stitched that diagonal seam permanently down. I could still get the dress over my head. This meant there were just a couple of snaps and a hook and eye to secure the tiny centre back seam. Again, I did a terrible job in putting these in, and the seam kind of pulls away from the studs and makes them visible. The belt helps hide this, and I confess, I ended up using a safety pin for some extra security.
On the night before I had to wear the thing, I went to hem it. I was home alone and didn’t have anyone to help me pin it. I also didn’t have a full length mirror in the house so I couldn’t even see if the hem was reasonably level or not. Unfortunately, my approach of marking with a pin where I wanted it in the front and them measuring this distance all around the bottom of the dress was a fatal mistake. After finishing the narrow hem (note, cutting off ALL hem allowance), I discovered that it is WAY TOO SHORT IN THE BACK!!!! Every time I wear this dress (which, granted , won’t be often), this will taunt me. True, the little train thingies in the back cover this up to some point and make it less noticeable, but still, I’m furious with myself. Speaking of the train godet pieces, for some reason, I couldn’t get the length of the placement lines to match up. I ended up stitching them down for longer than the pattern marking. This doesn’t seem to be a major issue, just something that surprised me, seeing as the rest of the pattern fitted so well together.
A hasty trip to the wonderful Buttonmania during a lunch break saw me find a vintage diamanté buckle for the belt. Of course, when I brought it home, I discovered it was far too wide for the belt’s width (which I’d already cut out), but I can sort of get away with it. Maybe one day I’ll find a replacement one.
I confess, I ended up pinning the belt with a safety pin. For some reason, whenever I make closures on a belt, they always end up too loose.
The other issue with this dress is the topic of undergarments. I did contemplate going bra-less, but was concerned that the cold weather might not be favourable to this situation, and I still had a fear that, due to the low back, the whole thing might slip off my shoulders and reveal way too much – definitely not something I wanted to occur, especially at a work function. In the end, I quickly found a low back body shaper thing which was perfect for the job. It also helped smooth out underwear lines (sort of).
Typically, I was in such a rush to make the wretched thing, that I didn’t take any photos of the construction. And on the night, I was busy running around for work, that again, I hardly got any pictures at all.
So in the end, the dress got made, albeit to a sub-standard level. But I got to wear it, and I think, if people didn’t look too closely, I pulled off the effect. I wonder if I’ll ever get to wear it again?
Now, I’m looking forward to making something out of a crisp, no-fuss cotton!