A post by: Elisalex
The pattern: Simplicity 6563 (Vintage)
The fabric: Winter Rose Viscose Crepe
Just when I thought I was ready to switch off my sewing machine for the last time this year, ready to let the crayhem of Christmas and last minute work/life admin take over, along comes a fabric that’s too good to wait. A fabric that arrives in all its weighty drapey glory, with a fabulous winter floral print that is as subtly festive as it is timelessly elegant, a fabric that demands to be made into a Christmas Day frock like, yesterday.
I can’t say no to a fabric like that. And so straight into the pre-wash she went as I sat down to consider my pattern options.
The original plan, to make the most of the beautiful and actually quite cosy drape of the fabric, and end up with something that would be comfortable enough to swan around the house in as well as dress up and go out in, was a dressing gown-esque wrap dress. Like a really fabulous house coat that with the right pair of heels and a dash of diamonds (look, sometimes I just roll with the Elizabeth Taylor fantasy and there’s nothing wrong with that, ok?!) could take you all the way through from morning mimosas to late night cocktails. You know?? Of course you know. The only problem was that I didn’t have the perfect pattern, nor the time to draft one. So I had a rummage through my pattern stash and settled on two potential contenders: Vogue 9253 – a cult pattern that I love on others but worried that the extremely plunging neckline wouldn’t suit me; and vintage 1970s Simplicity 6563 – a pattern I scored in a Salvation Army thrift shop in Lafayette, Louisiana for 50 cents. I posed the dilemma in an instastory poll, but ended up rebelling against the popular vote for the Vogue and went for the Simplicity.
On paper, the Simplicity 6563 was perfect – it had the long drapey silhouette I was after, long slim sleeves, that little gathered detail at centre front which not only looked super flattering but also seemed to be the only involved aspect of making this dress with its otherwise quick and simple construction (essential considering my time constraints), and even better – my measurements were coming up a spot on 12 so I was confident about diving right in without making a toile.
I know it sounds like I’m building this up to spend the next paragraph going on about how hasty I was, how bad the dress fit and how many alterations I ended up having to make to get it right. How you should never get ahead of yourself thinking that a pattern you’ve never worked with (especially a vintage one) will fit right out of the packet and turn out flawlessly when you’re in a hurry to sew. Well, that’s all true, and I should know all that by now, but this time the gods of sewing were smiling down on me and I’m happy to report that the dress turned out beautifully first time around.
Well, not exactly first time around… The fit was great, construction a breeze, but I didn’t think through the finish of that gathered centre front the first time around. The pattern has you gather an empty circular opening at centre front, pulling the basting threads tight and closing the hole. To finish, you’re supposed to make a circle patch out of your fabric and topstitch it over the gathered hole to cover it and make it look all neat. The first circle I made looked more like a misshaped egg than a circle, due to the unstable drapey-ness of the fabric. Still in a hurry and not wanting to waste time making a better circle, I pinned it into place and topstitched over it with a rather loud “decorative” satin stitch which I hoped would make it into a feature and mask the imperfection. Sadly, it just looked messy.
At this point, the beautiful fit of the dress, and how perfectly the fabric had lent itself to the design motivated me to keep going and get that circle feature as close to perfection as I could before going to bed and calling it a day. I unpicked it, regathered the opening, and this time I cut a circle out of card that was the same size of the finished fabric circle. I used the card template to press the fabric circle around, thereby ending up with an actual circle shape as opposed to the deformed egg I had before! Ideally I would have interfaced it as well, but I had run out of interfacing, so the card template was the best I could do. I then stitched the circle into place by hand so that there would be no visible topstitching, which I think would have looked imperfect and messy.
I’m so pleased that I stuck at it and redid the circle there and then. For such a simple dress, it was really important to me that the one design detail should be beautifully executed. And I could’t be happier with the result! This dress is as comfortable as it is luxurious, and that was exactly what I was hoping to achieve.