'So, why don't you just go vintage shopping, Zoe?', I hear you ask. Well, #1) where's the challenge in that?, #2) I will have more control over the style of garment I end up with rather than relying solely on chance, #3) I can guarantee a better fit by making my own. I'm very lucky to currently have a job in which I am surrounded by fabric, and if a nice piece of vintage fabric that fits the bill comes by, I can 'buy' it by giving a donation to the charity that I work for. This project would be more difficult if I were relying on charity shops and second-hand shops as vintage fabric sources, and more expensive if I were to look online, so whilst I'm in this fortunate position, I plan to make hay whilst the sun shines!
So, the first garment in my 'New School Vintage' range is this lace embellished navy A-line shift dress. The pattern I used is Simplicity 7511 which is dated 1968. I chose the wider neckline (what's up with those super-choking high necklines?) through choice and the shorter sleeve through necessity as I didn't have enough fabric for longer ones. I traced the whole pattern except for the neck facing pieces and made three changes to the pattern. The first change was to finally heed the lessons from past vintage pattern sewing projects and lower the bust dart points about 4cms. The pattern instructions actually showed me how to do this, basically by keeping the position of the darts at the side seam the same, but lowering the point, folding the dart closed and redrawing the side seam to figure out the new adjusted cutting line. I actually could have lowered the bust darts even more, were women's breasticles really so much higher forty years ago? Remind me to ask my mum.
The second was to make it a little wider from the bust line down to the hem to accommodate my lower lady-curves (I ignored the recommendation that this pattern is for 'young junior/teens'!). The third was the redraft the sleeve to remove most of the excessive ease in the sleevehead. In hindsight, I think I took too much out and should have left a bit more in, but there you go.
The fabric is some horrendous synthetic knit stuff that I imagine is from roughly this era, though being a solid rather than print is trickier to date. It behaves like double knit, and therefore is pretty comfortable to wear, though probably intensely flamable! It is a lovely deep inky navy, which is one of my absolute favourite colours to wear, as my Winter coat project may have hinted at. The lace is also from work, once again, no idea how old it actually it, but I think it is authentic enough.
This whole project took very little time to whip up, even with the application of a very inauthentic for the period device: a domestic overlocker. Makes me realise how my mum used to make herself a new dress every Saturday for a period of time during the mid-sixties. I think she used to use pinking sheers on all her seams, which might actually have been more time consuming than overlocking, now I come to think of it. One sewing habit that I use at work for speed's sake is making closed rather than open seams for all but the centre-back one. I've now started to use this method for my projects at home and I'm pretty convinced it's quicker and makes no different to the quality of the finished garment.
There's something not entirely perfect about the fit of this garment around the upper bodice/shoulder area, possibly linked to me taking out almost all the sleeveheas ease, but it's really not enough of an issue in my opinion to warant further investigation. An A-line shift dress technically isn't the most flattering of garment silhouettes for my curvy shape, but as I've said before, I really think that the majority of most women can rock pretty much any silhouette they fancy with a few adjustments and fitting tweaks, and a whole dollup of pizzazz! For this style, I made sure I kept the final hemline not too short. Also, this pattern has an interesting long curved dart that starts at the top hip area and finishes at the bust (maybes you can see more clearly in the close up of the pattern illustration pictured above) which kind of hints at the waist, unlike many shift dress variants.
This dress has had one outting so far (oh look, it's Matty lurking again! Say hi, ladies, he needs the attention!) and I think it's the perfect garment for the festive season. I've never figured out why, on the lead up to Christmas, clothes shops are absolutely rammed full of overly sparkly, glitzy and dazzling sequinned or bejewelled concoctions. Maybe it's just the lame life I lead, but I only find the need to crank out some party wear once or twice over the festive season. Most of my festive get-togthers seem to be quiet (and not-so-quiet) boozy pub sessions or house parties of which I would be laughed out of if I turned up sparkling all over. But there really is something nice and put-together about wearing a dress, even a relatively casual one like this. Through it on with some thick tights, cardi and flat boots or shoes, and PAM! I'm ready!