Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Next Up: The Sheath Dress!

So, back to my goal to sew every project from Vogue's New Book for Better Sewing. And the next one up is a personal favorite: "the late-day sheath dress."

This project is an important one to me for several reasons. First of all, it's the one on the cover of the book. Secondly, I bought an amazing red duchesse silk satin to make it in. Thirdly, I ordered a custom made belt in the same fabric. And lastly, this pattern belonged to Doris, and I feel I owe it to her to make it fabulous. (It's worth noting that Doris also made it in red. Well, at least her notes indicated "linen - red.")

I love that it's on the cover of VoNBBS, and my plan to is to recreate the cover look as closely as possible. Hence, the red satin. VoNBBS makes the suggestion:
"Satin, when used sparingly as in this sheath, has an 'after-five look.' If, however, you're shy about satin, make it in a faille crepe or - wonderful idea! - a grey flannel. And if after-five clothes don't fit into your scheme of life, make it in a sun sheath of linen, pique, or Shantung."
It's possible that I am a little shy about satin, but no time to get over that like the present! And I'm sure I'll find some occasion to wear it, right? Besides, just look at this gorgeous ruby-red duchesse:

So, I'm excited. But I don't want to just go whack-whack into this beautiful and pricey fabric, obviously. So I'm going to do my usual tissue-fitting, and then do a test run in a less expensive fabric.

I bought this white cotton matellasse when it was on sale at, and I never really figured out what to do with it. It's so pretty though, with tone-on-tone roses all over. I want to get some use out of it before the summer is over, and I think this is it! The darts and fitting lines will be clear in the white. I like the idea of doing this, rather than a muslin, so that I can wear it out for a day or two to really test out the fit. Does this seem like a good idea to you? Or would you do a muslin?

Also, the editor of VoNBBS herself suggested making this dress in a wide variety of fabrics. Check out this cryptic observation:

"Wisely, Chinese women repeat a style in a gamut of fabrics. Why shouldn't you, once you find a fashion that's becoming?"
Ah yes, the wise Chinese women.

Um, what? What in the world does that even mean? Are they possibly referring to the cheongsam? I know this type of style was an interest to fashion-forward American women in this era, just like the sarong dress. What do you think?

Anyway, stay tuned. Hopefully, I'll have the cotton version of the sheath dress ready to show you soon!


  1. Using the cotton as a tester is a great idea--and you'll feel better about the fit once you get to the gorgeous red fabric.

    Also--where did you have a custom belt made? Is there an online store or a trim/fabric store that does this? I've never managed to find one.

    Can't wait to see your next dress!

  2. So looking forward to seeing this dress! I think your plan is a good one - I'm about to do the same kind of test run with a dress pattern to see how it feels before using more expensive fabric.

    I'm just getting back into sewing again and your blog is inspiring me to improve!

  3. This dress is both timeless and also so now. I can't wait to see it.

  4. I totally agree about making the dress first in a cheap fabric that you can actually wear out. I always think that making in muslim first must be such a test of patience. At least you'll have something to wear. I agree with Sarah - you're definitely inspiring me, too.

  5. Yes, a wearable muslin is the way to go. One comment on the pattern picture; damn, she's skinny.

  6. It's a great idea! It'll be so great as a sun or day dress.

  7. Amanda, I'm using a small company called Pat's Custom Buttons and Belts. I read about Pat in Threads magazine. She works entirely by mail order. I will write about my experience once I receive the belt! If you google the business, you'll find info. Interesting, since she's the only person I've found who still offers this service.

    Thanks for your feedback, everyone!

  8. I LOVE sheath dresses - they look so nice because of the fit. I think your idea of the wearable muslin is great. Since you have already made quite a few items from the patterns, you know your size and any adjustments that may be needed. If it was the first item you were making, a muslin would probably be best. I HATE muslins, though! I like instant gratification!!!

  9. I'm glad you're making it in red, like the cover dress, since I'm really very fond of the whole cover look: red dress, brooch, earrings, low bun, plus the little black fascinator matching the long gloves... Definitely overdressed to my standards, but absolutely marvellous.

  10. The red satin is perfect and I think is great color for you!
    The wearable muslin is a brilliant idea. The fabric you described sounds like it would be great with a hat and some short lace gloves for a Sunday stroll.
    I am wondering out loud if the sheath style would still look as slick if the skirt part was modified to have slight a-line, for the pear shaped gal:)
    Spanx only go so far!

  11. I always make my trial garments with material I actually like instead of just doing a muslin. That way if it works out you can actually get some use out of it. I can't wait to see how this dress turns out.

  12. Funny- I finally abandoned muslin recently because after a summer of staring at it way too much, I just couldn't stand to see any variety of beige anymore, so bought my next few patterns' worth of different, great color, inexpensive but wearable broadcloth to work out instead. And yes, instant gratification has made all the difference in terms of my motivation, work product, and oddly, confidence! It's the combination of inspiring color and cheap enough fabric that I don't overthink too much. Since I'm much more of a novice than most of the people here, I've just spent so much of the summer just [re]working in muslin because I'm learning as I go, especially with modifying patterns, haven't wanted to go whack-whacking anything before I felt more confident. Anyway, I'm loving my little broadcloth pieces so far, and it's great getting multiple wearable looks out of the same pattern.

  13. the red is gorgeous! i think making the pattern in a less expensive fabric is wise. When using expensive fabric--I usually make a quick muslin--I mark it up with sharpies markers, basting etc. then I will use a cheaper fabric to test out my alterations.

    I can't wait to see it! And I am interested in the belt company!

  14. That dress is going to be stunning in that red! And I think its a great idea to do a test run in the white, that way you don't waste all that effort of the first run and will have a new garment before you've even started the main dress!

  15. Ahh yes, my first and ever lasting love...the sheath dress. And what could make my TNT's even better???? Custom fabric belts! Please provide lots of pictures & lots of details of what you receive back from her shop. If Pat can do half as much as what I hope she can, then she needs to buy a bigger coffee pot: she has more business on the way ;-)

  16. The sheath dress will look fabulous in red.

  17. Hi, I've arrived here from Sew Retro and spent some time reading through your blog last night! I think you've got a cool idea going through those projects and i've bookmarked you so I can follow every step! Very exciting to read the progress on your Sheath Dress. x

  18. I'd love it if you could add the line drawings of the garments. This blog is so much fun.

  19. Oooh! Red satin is so glamorous! I agree with making a "working test" version. If the garment is simple enough, I often just make it in a cheaper material and fit as I go. Only for more complicated garments (or things I have no use for another version of) do I tend to make a straight-up fitting muslin. Maybe I'm lazy, but I hate making something that I can't wear (even if it's just for fitting!). lol!

    I cannot wait to see the cotton dress! :)

  20. I wholeheartedly believe in making up a trial run in something you can wear. Definitely!!

    This dress is gorgeous. Can't wait to see it made up!


Thanks for your comments; I read each and every one! xo Gertie

© Gertie's Blog For Better Sewing. Powered by Cake