This dress came about for several reasons. Initially I happened to spot a wonderful Marc Jacobs dress in Nordstrom. I occasionally pop up to the designer floor to check out the sewing on some of the garments and get a little inspiration. I’ve never been a designer clothes wearer, but I thought the design on this $995 dress (below left) was really sharp and interesting, and the velvet was of beautiful quality. I wouldn’t have really noticed it in a picture, but in real life the dress just sort of glowed. Of course, it was also hitting those three big A/W fashion trends of red, velvet and shoulders/sleeves, which would normally put me off in all honesty, but it just so happens that I rather like red anyway, so… YES!
Anyway, I didn’t think much more about the dress until three things happened around the same time. We got an invite to my husband’s festive work party, I then saw the V9264 pattern sitting on a shelf and thought to myself, “Hmm, those shoulders looks a little like that Marc Jacobs dress”, and finally I happened upon this blog post by Nice Dress! Thanks, I made it!! about the #designindecember challenge. The challenge is to complete a knock-off, or should I say tribute, of/to a designer garment you admire and post it on your blog/IG during December. Sod it, I thought, let’s give this a go!
Pattern and fabric
I had initially been attracted by the V9264 picture of the moss green dress, since it had the sort of shoulders I was after. When I looked at the other pics and line drawings though, it seemed like the shoulders were less exaggerated than on this particular dress. Nevertheless, I decided to maximise the gathering and just make sure I gave the sleeve some good puff when I got to that part. The original Marc Jacobs dress is gorgeous, but on my more *ahem* curvy figure, I knew that the straight, tucked miniskirt would not do my waistline any favours. So right off the bat, I was happy with the fit and flare dress style on the Vogue pattern. The sleeve has a great big pleat in the centre of the shoulder and gathered sides to give it that distinctive shape, and the body of the dress has princess seams for shaping.
The V9264 pattern calls for stretch velvet and is a Very Easy Vogue pattern. While this mostly made me very happy, since it gave more room for error and an easy Vogue pattern is my kind of level, it did mean the lush velvet I’d been eyeing in JoAnn for ages was out of the question – it wasn’t a stretch velvet. Darn! Time was running out and I didn’t have time to hunt around online, so I picked up a few yards of this other stretch velvet I spotted in the special occasion-type section. It was pretty cheap at $7.99 a yard with coupons and although it’s not designer standard velvet, I was happy with the colour and thickness.
One unusual step I did take in an effort to make it look slightly more sophisticated was to use the velvet upside down, with the nap going up the dress. This sounds rather weird, but I preferred the toned down look of the velvet that way. As you can see it’s still pretty dazzling, so I felt it necessary. It’s also hard to take good pictures of velvet dresses I’ve discovered, so just believe me when I say it’s a bit of a deeper red and less of a pink than it seems in some of these pics.
Now the tricky situation of what size to make. My base size for the Big 4 in a woven is a Size 20. I tried to figure out what to cut using several methods. First I figured I should go down at least a size because of the stretch factor. You would think that would be taken into account, but in my experience, it’s not. Since the shoulders are the most important part to get right with a dress like this, I also worked out the fit using my high bust measurement. This also came out at an 18. Finally, I used Nancy Zieman’s method of measuring from armpit crease to armpit crease. This resulted in a 14-16 estimate! What to do? I decided to cut an 18.
This was my first fitting. I was actually pleasantly surprised, since I really thought this dress might look terrible. As you can see, it’s not too bad! Some things are apparent though. It can be summed up by saying: I should have cut no more than a 16. Perhaps a 14 with an FBA even? Nancy Z – you were right! The shoulders are too wide and the dress is a little loose in other areas. The pattern describes the dress as “close-fitting”, but it definitely wasn’t. Having said that, it was very comfortable and skimmed over my bumps quite well, so I decided to avoid it being too “close-fitting” in favour of “eating a lot”.
As a side-note I rather like the sleeveless look, so if I made it again, I might consider leaving the sleeves out for a different dress.
One other thing I wasn’t sure about were the princess seams. I LOVE that this dress actually has princess seams, but I was under the impression they were supposed to line up with your nipple/apex or thereabouts? These certainly didn’t. I checked up on the internet and found out that sometimes princess seams are designed to run down the side of the dress as well, although it’s more unusual. On closer inspection of the pattern photos, it appeared they were indeed placed to either side of the bust, although that wasn’t clear on the line drawings. I decided not to adjust them and see if my other adjustments pulled them in a little.
The main issue, as mentioned, was to narrow the shoulders. However, I certainly didn’t want to reduce the impact of the pleat and gathers, so I started by taking in the neck seam by 1/2″ (1/4″ each side of the seam). This helped a little, but not enough, so after much deliberation I took the shoulders in by 1″ (1/2″ each side of the seam). This was much better.
The other main adjustments I made were in order to “lighten” the dress up. The volume and interest is all in the top half of the dress, so I wanted to make sure the whole garment was saying “party dress” and not “Victorian dowager dress”. Therefore, I took the lower half of the sleeves in by a whole 2 inches to keep them tight. This minor adjustment actually made quite a bit of difference in modernising the look. To the same end, I used a 2″ hem. This kept it a little frothy and, since the Xmas party this garment was destined for was definitely not formal, I knew I was going to dress it down a bit with the black leggings and block heel shoes. Therefore, exposure worries were at a minimum, if you catch my drift.
I serged the whole dress, including the adjustments, and used the twin-needle for the hem and sleeves. I also *drum roll* changed the serger threads to red! Believe me, that’s a sign of commitment to this garment. It was very easy to make (the instructions were concise and perfect) and the fabric actually performed beautifully – it was very simple to handle. There was minimum fluff for a velvet and I am very happy with how it all turned out!
I was fully prepared to feel like a giant red glittery Christmas pudding, which is why I didn’t even sign up to the Designin’ December challenge in advance, but I surprised myself by really liking it! I probably didn’t finish the hems ideally – for such a fabric handsewing might been better – but I didn’t have a lot of time. Je ne regrette rien, as someone once said.
Overall, I’m really happy (did I already say that?) and can thoroughly recommend this pattern if you like the style. The maxi looks rather nice on the Vogue website – maybe I’ll give that one a go sometime… I leave you with the hubby and I trying to work out how a basic photo booth works at the holiday party and selecting only the photos where I look freaking miserable. Thanks for that, photo booth!