Sunday, 16 February 2020

Vogue 1277 - making a start

Having completed my February entry for the Historical Sew Monthly, it's time to turn my attention to my other monthly challenge, the Vintage Sew A Dress A Month. For this I'm making the dress part of my graduation outfit, Vogue 1277.

Vogue 1277, 1954

Close-up of the dress

At some point I really need to do a full post on the fitting issues I've been having with my dressmaking recently, but for now I'll just say that I knew that at least one mock-up was going to be essential. Mostly for the fitting, but also to understand the construction.

The bodice pieces

The bodice front in particular has a lot going on.

Just some of the markings on the bodice front

Fortunately I'm used to the odd shapes and construction of vintage Vogue patterns from some of the reissues I've tried, especially 8686 and 2859. So I made what I hoped were the right alterations to the pattern, cut it out from cotton sheeting, and started sewing.

The main problem turned out to be not following the instructions, but seeing them! There is a single instruction sheet, size 40cm x 48cm / 15½" x 19", and one side of it is taken up with cutting layouts. All of the constuction details are crammed on the other side, with complex diagrams which are often little more than 2½cm / 1" wide. Fortunately I discovered that if I took lots of close-up photographs and transferred them to my laptop, the printing was sharp enough for a greatly enlarged version to be perfectly clear. This also reduces the amount I have to handle the original instruction sheet, which is a little fragile.

Teeny tiny, but well printed, instructions

It was interesting to see certain differences from current constuction techniques. For example, the bodice is clipped in two places (steps 5 and 7 above), but there is no attempt to reinforce the fabric first, as a modern pattern would suggest. I added the reinforcement anyway, but in a contrast thread so that I could check if it showed on the finished bodice.

Clip lines in green, reinforcement lines in red

Similarly, the sleeve head needs quite a lot of easing to fit it into the armscye. Normally I would expect the pattern to suggest running a line of basting stitches round it and pulling them up to fit, but these ones just say to ease the sleeve head as it is basted in place. This sounded very tricky, so again I went for the technique I'm familiar with.

Nowhere on the pattern, on the envelope or the instructions, is there any indication of what notions are required. There are zips and the back neck and at the side, but I had to work out their lengths from the pattern. More annoyingly, it turns out that there are three buttons on the dress. As I was only bought the six which were visible on the jacket, and can't get any more, I will have to give this some thought.

However, back to the toile. I only made the bodice for the first attempt. When I tried it on, I was pleasantly surprised (please excuse the dreadful photo).

I really need to clean that mirror, and position it in better light

The shoulders are far too wide, and the bodice is too short at the front (it's fine at the back). Both are related to my ongoing fitting issues, and easily fixed. Other than that, I was pretty pleased. I have reredrafted the pattern, also taking time to tidy up all the notches and markings which were out of place on the original, and am currently working on mockup number two - this time with a skirt. We'll gloss over the fact that initially I spread the 1" adjustment of the skirt piece across three places in amounts of ⅜", ½" and a further ⅜" - because everyone knows that there are ten eighths of an inch in one inch, right? This is what happens when you use metric and imperial measurements simultaneously!

I'll finish off with these pictures of the wonderful Lesley Manville in The Visit at the National Theatre. When I saw this photograph in a review, I was struck by just how much the silhouette of her costume matched my pattern.

Even the contrast collar looks familiar. Image © The National Theatre

I love the fact that she clearly rehearsed in a big net petticoat, to get used to the movement of the costume!

Image from BroadwayWorld

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