Vintage Vogue 8875 – Cherry Blossom Dress

I mentioned a while back that I wanted to make up Vintage Vogue 8875 in a silky poly floral fabric I had been saving for a special project, and I decided to jump right into it and make myself a new dress for my cousin’s wedding. The wedding was set to be a very classy affair in black and white — much fancier than the usual Southern Baptist weddings I’ve attended where people sip punch made from ginger ale, pineapple juice, and orange sherbet while nibbling on a cake baked by the bride’s aunt.

In other words, MUCH fancier than my own wedding.

First on the agenda: figure out how to FBA this vintage beast. It’s not your typical princess seam bodice. Oh, and it’s not even a typical kimono sleeve bodice either. No, this beast has both a princess seam AND kimono sleeves AND a cut-wedge waist dart, and you can’t just princess seam FBA it or kimono sleeve FBA it.

I couldn’t get my head around it, so I sent a panicked message to my mentor, Claire Kennedy, begging her to help me because she was my only hope. We went back and forth with Claire trying to direct me to FBA it a certain way and me just not quite getting it. She ended up making a video for me that provided a perfect visual of where to cut and slide and add tissue to make the dress fit.  I also had to add a broad back adjustment even though I don’t have a broad back because the kimono sleeves needed a bit more ease for movement. This PDF from Texas A&M was helpful (turns out Aggies are good for something after all!). We found that the dress has a blousy waistline, even though the line art on the pattern envelope doesn’t seem to show that. Blousy waists look frumpy on me, so I shortened the bodice and adjusted it to fit my waist. I also disliked the fold-over waist darts on the skirt front because they looked “poochy,” so I just made them like the ones on the back.

I could not have done this without Claire. She cheered me on and encouraged me, even when I was doubting myself. The old me would have given up and cut it by my bust size and hoped that my long hair covered the ill-fitting neckline, or made something very simple, like a sheath or a basic bodice-and-skirt dress. The new me kept hacking at the pattern and stitching up muslin after muslin and pinning and seam-ripping and resewing over and over until…

It worked. It really worked.

vogue8875_1

It doesn’t fit Joan perfectly (I suspect the cover is inching its way upward and throwing off the waistline) but it fits me perfectly!  The fit is so flattering, and I have a new appreciation for kimono sleeves and the charming way they emphasize one’s neckline and shoulders. The best compliment I received about this dress was from another sewist at church who said that when saw me across the sanctuary, she could tell that I had sewn the dress to fit myself. You can’t buy that right off the rack!

vogue8875_2

I’m far from done with this pattern. I haven’t made the belt yet because I need to find a vintage black buckle for one. As soon as I can snag a good lot of vintage buckles from ebay, I’ll make up the belt. For now, I’m wearing a plain black RTW belt with it. I also want to make up the coat some day. I will probably make it up in black wool or black velvet, and I’d like to make interchangeable collars — one in the same fabric as the dress, and another in a high-quality faux fur.  I may even be brave enough to make this dress up again some day in a gorgeous blue silk dupioni!

I’ve noticed that while this pattern is very popular and there are a lot of sewists out there who are excited about it, very few people have actually sewn it up. I’ve found two other people on the internet who have made it. Everyone else who blogs about it just talks about how pretty it is and how they want to make it. Well, sewists, don’t be afraid of it. Just make it! Unlike some of the other “retro” reprint lines (such as Butterick’s infamous poorly-redrafted Retro line), this is actually a pretty great pattern. I recommend it for anyone who is looking for a vintage garment that’s a healthy challenge. The princess seam inserts require stitching a square of fabric over the point, slashing through, and turning the material to the inside as reinforcement, but don’t let that scare you. It’s actually not that difficult to do. The most difficult part was the FBA, and even that was doable (eventually!). Also, make sure you stick to the fabric recommendations. Don’t make it in quilter’s cotton, for heaven’s sake. Use silk (or high-quality polyester if you fear silk like I do) or something similar with a gentle drape and a little sheen.

As for the fabric I chose, I have mixed feelings, though they are mostly positive. The print is very eye-catching and I’ve actually turned a few heads while wearing this dress. I painstakingly lined up the print on the front and the back so that the flowers point upward and downward from the waistline. It’s a satin-back polyester that can’t decide whether its imitating crepe or silk dupioni, and it wasn’t too bad too work with. Unfortunately, it’s cheap stuff from a major fabric store chain. While I was making this dress, I told Claire that I had learned how cheap fabric really isn’t worth it. It’s fine for now while I’m still learning how to sew. But as my skills improve and I become very serious about building a long-term wardrobe, I will need to invest in better fabric. Cheap fabric wears out quickly, which means that in the long run my carefully-fitted and sewn garments won’t be a lot better than RTW garbage. I’m also starting to prefer cotton and rayon over polyester, which isn’t really appropriate for vintage garments anyway.

Overall, I’d say this dress was a huge step forward for me in my sewing journey! I learned about kimono sleeves, unusual FBAs, being extremely persistent, working with slippery fabric, lining up prints, and choosing quality fabric for a garment.  It’s also my first real FBA success. I’ve managed to do FBAs before, but this was the first time I’d used one to make an actual garment!

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