The search for the perfect pattern to match an idea in your head is a challenging one. But sometimes it really works out!
I found this printed fabric by accident in the back room of one of my favorite fabric stores, Sewfisticated Fabrics. It’s actually really nice quality cotton with a tiny bit of stretch to it. The print looks like the canals of Venice, Italy. Really cool find, so I had to buy some, even if I wasn’t exactly sure what it would be.
Somewhere I got the idea it would look good as the top of a dress, with the bottom being just plain black. I also figured it should probably have an empire waist – so the search began for a pattern I could use for this vision.
I started to look at some vintage patterns, because I couldn’t really find many modern patterns of the dress style I was looking for. I settled on this Simplicity pattern because the picture had a similar look to what I was going for. For the black skirt, I bought fabric that would dress up the look, but I’m not exactly sure what it is – some sort of polyester. It’s a little on the thick side, so I knew I was going to have to use a serger so the seams didn’t appear too bulky.
Most of the vintage dress patterns I have used have been really easy to construct, and this one was no different. For the bodice, it requires you to cut out a facing, which finishes the top and armholes without a lining. When you cut out the facing and sew it all together, it is one long piece like so:
Then you sew it to the bodice with right sides together so it can be flipped to the inside:
I find this “facing” method a lot in vintage patterns and is actually a great technique for beginners. It finishes the arm holes in a simple way and you don’t have to worry about a full lining. I ended up edge-stitching around the top to keep the facing in place more. I was able to use my new edge join foot, which made me happy. The pattern also instructs you the hand tack the facing down at the seams, which is absolutely necessary.
Since I was already using a serger for the skirt, I figured after I sewed the bodice to the skirt, I could just finish that seam with the serger as well for a more professional and neater look.
I think I achieved this. The last step was installing the zipper. I always get nervous putting a regular zipper instead of an invisible one. I know, I’m weird, it’s just what I am used to. The directions also had me basting – which yuk, one thing I hate to do. But actually it worked really well and the zipper went in with no issues on the first try – and again another great technique for beginners.
The pattern suggested a sort of ribbon/bow belt thingy. I thought a satin ribbon would look nice around the waist, but I didn’t really want to make a whole belt contraption and bows just don’t come out right for me. I looked at some videos online about sewing a ribbon on the waist and found this video, showing I could just attach at the side seams and the back. This also solved a problem where I was trying to avoid sewing a straight line all the way around the ribbon. I feel this method keeps the satin’s smooth appearance.
So yeah, it’s pretty much what I envisioned. I decided not to add the decorative buttons on the front because I thought it would take away from the Venice motif.
I would really recommend this pattern if you have it or if you can find it. The directions were simple and clear and everything came together quite quickly. The only issue with buying vintage patterns is the sizing. Since they only come in one size, adjusting is almost always a necessity. I ended up adding some width to the skirt on this one to fit my hips. The bodice fit pretty much as is, which was great.
My experiment with using two completely different fabrics worked! I have to admit I was a little unsure for a bit in the beginning since both were completely different weights, but they actually go together quite nicely. And now the vision has become reality, which is really the most rewarding part of all. I can’t wait to wear this – I think a trip to Italy is in the cards!