Tuesday, July 15, 2014

My Mad Mod Ponte Knit Dress In Progress

Did everyone enjoy the first part of the last season of Mad Men? I did.

What does that have to do with my sewing projects? Not much at first, but as the season (and this project) continued, they seemed more and more related. The pattern is a vintage dress pattern from 1972, but if you shortened it a few inches, it could have been perfect for 1969.

In fact, Peggy wore a dress very much like it in Episode 3.

That dress in particular, plus this similarly-shaped Stella McCartney “Ridley” dress worn by the Duchess of Cambridge during her tour in Australia, revved up my mojo, and hopefully this dress won’t end up in the UFO pile.

Instead of waiting until I can write a completed Pattern Review, here is a progress post so you know exactly what I have had to deal with in altering this pattern to fit my modern style and current body shape.

The pattern is Simplicity 5289, published in 1972. This is an A-line dress with French darts, a high jewel neck, and short raglan sleeves. The largest size in the pattern is a 14, though my waist and hip measurements match what would have been a size 16.

Luckily, I had some yardage of a gorgeous sea-green double knit I received from that wonderful VA/DC/MD swap a few years ago. That’s also where I got the pattern! This is a medium-weight fabric with minimum stretch.

Looking as the pattern sketch and knowing vintage dresses, I knew that the round necklines of that late 60-70s period would be too tight for modern comfort and that I might have to lower the neckline. Months ago, before I left Richmond, I created a quick muslin of the dress (from the waist-up only) to check the neckline, the fit of the shoulders, and the armscye. However, my muslin was made from a twill duvet cover (yeah, I know) so the actual final result would still be a mystery.

I was extremely surprised by the fit, the raglan sleeve hung a bit too low, however; the darts were in the correct place and the shoulder shape was near perfect.
Because of the low armholes and the resulting excess fabric around the bust and waist I decided to make a few changes to the pattern before cutting out my final fabric:

The size 14 was for a waist and hip 2 inches smaller than my measurements so I added 1/2" to the pattern at the side seam and tapered from a 14 at the bust to a 16 below. The altering of the French darts took some time and thought as I added tissue paper to the pattern, refolded the darts, and cut the new shape.

In a move to raise the arms, I also took out 1/2" horizontally at the front and back bodice above the first notch so that the area would match the same space on the sleeve pattern.

According to the pattern envelope, the finished dress length was meant be 42", including a 2-1/2" hem. I prefer something around 35-36" long so this was far too long for me. Without hesitation, I removed 4 inches from the bottom. I know the correct way to shorten a dress is to use the supplied horizontal cutting lines but with the published finished dress width at 50", I felt I could afford to lose some of that old school A-line width.

Once the pieces were cut, I marked the dart lines using tracing paper and then thread traced over the lines for clear visibility.

I hand basted the dress, beginning with sewing the darts together, the sleeves, and then the long side seams. First thing I noticed was that a zipper might not be needed, even with this close neckline. A small 2" opening and a button closure could work, eliminating the potential wonkeness of a zipper in this substantial knit.

Here is the dress with the above pattern changes:

Ultimate "frump prison matron action shot"!

No waist/bum definition!
However, the shoulders are looking good!
The best thing to come out of this very unattractive fashion shoot was seeing the fit of those shoulders!!! Once the sleeves are shortened/hemmed by two inches they should be near perfect.

The only helpful information that I could find on adjustments for raglan sleeves was found on the Madalynne blog here.
I stopped working on this dress towards the end of May because temperatures (and no AC) made this fabric excruciating to touch.

Whoa, this post is getting long
so I'll publish in another post the additional work I did on this dress and how I achieved a better fit.

*At this point, a total of six inches has been removed and the skirt has not been hemmed yet!

Images: AMC, Media-Mode.com, my own photos

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