Sunday, March 11, 2012

The "Vintage-Inspired, Modern Style" Design Challenge!

Well well, wasn't this contest right up my alley!?

BurdaStyle has organized a contest, see rules and information HERE. We were to take an existing pattern and make our own variation from it. There were plenty of different patterns to choose from, amongst them four vintage patterns free of charge! The one that jumped right at me upon very first glance was the "Slip-On Jumper Dress".

Click HERE to get to all the patterns, though I don't know if they stay available after the deadline on March 12th 2012.

The vintage pattern I chose was perfect for me for several reasons:
  • It's the kind of pattern you "draft" yourself by filling in your own measurements following a geometrical sketch provided - I love that!
  • This kind of dress is extremely versatile and can suit all kinds of occasions, depending on fabric, color and accessory choices
  • I've been wanting to make an elengant/casual jersey dress for a while now and this pattern is simply perfect for it

But why have I been wanting an elegant-casual jersey/knit fabric dress?

In fashion and sewing magazines you often get to the section "for the office". It's so easy to be dressed well in an office job! Squeeze yourself into a pencil skirt and a nice blouse - done!
But how can you be dressed well and still feel comfortable to move around a lot for all those other professions out there? Are sweat pants the only option for doctors, teachers, journalists, all kinds of artists, mothers... ?! It really isn't easy to have a bit of style and elegance if you need to be comfortable for your work - and there must be millions of women who simply won't be able to do their daily go-abouts in pencil skirts and high heels... this fits so well with the contest, which also celebrates the life and work of Mary Brooks Picken, the authority on fashion and dressmaking in the early and mid-1900s. A very active woman, she would have definitely also been in need of comfortable, yet elegant clothes...

This is where the Jersey comes in. It's super comfortable, easy to wear, wash and even to sew, because you don't have to hassle with zippers and buttons, and in my case here, you don't even have to hem it...! I added a lining, because Jersey can stick to cotton underwear or tights, and you really don't want to be caught pulling down on your dress all day long...! This dress can be sewn in one quick afternoon once you have the pattern. If you have a serger, it is super quick. You can also sew it with a regular machine, it just adds a bit of extra time to finish all the edges. If this were to be turned into a commercial pattern, it would come in several sizes though, not the fill-in-yourself version. And there could be a choice of short or long sleeves, and possibly two different kinds of collars.

I made two versions, the first one basically being a wearable muslin, a first try on the pattern to then come up with my final version.

Dress No. 1 - the first version:

For my first version, I pretty much left the main pattern piece the original shape. The only thing I changed about it was not adding all the extra ease, because the jersey/knit fabric doesn't need that. First you close the shoulder seams, then add the pockets, then close the side seams. Now I added the lining to the bottom of the dress, and to that another stripe of jersey, so it's basically one long tube:

What am I doing in the picture below?

I'm measuring how wide I have to make the lining to still be able to move and take big steps comfortably... because what's the point of having a stretch fabric if you line it with non-stretch material...?

Now you fold up the lining and sew the jersey stripe to the wrong side at the waist, forming a tunnel to pull the belt through:

However, BEFORE that, you need to make two button holes in the center front of your dress, or you will not be able to get that belt in there anymore ;-)

I recycled an old rib knit tank top to make the collar, cuffs and belt:

And I played around to get to a certain sleeve shape I had in mind. I like 3/4 sleeves, they won't be in your way if you are dealing with water, washing and the likes. In fact, this version has two different sleeves:

I think the one on the left in the picture above is too extreme. All in all there is a lot to like about this version, but a lot to improve, too. So I went right to it: The very widely cut lining and the huge pockets created bulk right where you would least want it - over your belly. And generally the dress is too short and tight, which defeats my initial quest of making a dress that is comfortable and easy to wear when moving around a lot...

Dress No. 2 - the final version:

The original main pattern piece was one straight line from shoulder point down to the hem. I changed it so that it goes down fairly straight from the shoulder to the waist, and then flares out from waist to hem. It is now wide enough so that I don't have to make the lining wider than the outer jersey fabric...
I made the pockets smaller, so they don't add extra bulk either.
I came up with the final funky sleeve shape.
I added a zipper to the collar.
Here are all the final pattern pieces:

This is the dress from the inside, you see the new shape for the dress and the pockets:

This is the final project from the inside:

I did a nicer job on the tunnel for the belt (use a zig zag stitch to keep it elastic):

...and I used two eyelets instead of making regular button holes:

Lastly I perfected the width of the cuffs, an important detail so the sleeves stay up should you so want it... This fabric falls nicer than the one from the first version, it is softer and a bit heavier (though thinner...).
I usually wear it with the zipper half way open, but all the way zipped up is cool, too.

This is one of those win-win situations. Sure I'd like to win one of the amazing prizes. But I came out with a dress I simply love, and with a pattern that I will probably sew another two hundred times, approximately... ;-))))

By the way, if you are new to my blog, I have a little "vote and win" going on until April 1st: you can win a vintage pattern if you help me decide which pattern to sew next... Just click on the link and add a comment. No strings attached.

Here is a preview of my next post, a no-sewing-machine project!

Happy sewing everybody, and good luck to the other participants!


  1. Very cute, I really like the sleeves.

  2. Debi_myhappysewingplaceMarch 11, 2012 at 3:25 PM

    AMAZING! I really love it!!!

  3. Das ist ein wirklich schönes Kleid geworden. Mal sehen, ob der Schnitt noch online ist ;)

  4. This is really creative and so practical.  I work in a professional office where pencil skirts are worn by just about everyone, but I think this dress would be perfect too.  Having greater comfort and movement, while still looking chic is hard to pull off, but you did it with this dress.