Tag Archives: Style

Black Dress with Princess seams

Hi and welcome to this week’s blog.

Do you wear a lot of black clothes?

I know I do. It seems to be my default colour. If I can’t decide what to wear, I reach for the black dress!

So what do all the black clothes in the closet signify?

Some would say black is stylish, others would say unimaginative. Some people wear black because it is rebellious while others wear it to conform. It is the colour of mourning but also sexy and seductive. There are so many contradictions and ways to interpret our feelings and attitudes towards our black clothes but it is probably the one colour everybody has and uses often.

So I thought to myself that it was time to add another one to the collection.

If you managed to read the blog I posted a few days ago, “How To Sew A Princess Seam” you would have seen me piecing and sewing together beautiful princess seams on a black bodice.

Princess seam bust front

I continued with making the dress and the result is this blog for you.

This is the picture I have used as my inspiration. It is a gorgeous black winter dress by the fabulous Yves Saint Laurent. HERE

This style of dress never seems to go out of fashion, the hem line and the sleeve length may go up and down depending on the season, otherwise its a classic look which from the sewist’s perspective gives us scope to make so many variations from just one basic pattern.

Princess seams on a dress can be made to continue down the whole length of the dress or they can stop at the hips or at the waist. On this dress I decided that the skirt was going to be a full circle skirt so the curved princess seams would only extended down as far as the waistline. They are on both the back and the front of the bodice which gives a perfect figure hugging shape.

Working with the black fabric at this time of year was a bit of a challenge and demanded plenty of good quality artificial light. I recently invested in a daylight light bulb which actually gives off a blue light rather than the yellow light from a regular bulb. Still a poor substitute for real sunlight though.

I knew that I was happy with the fit of the bodice, except for the neckline which was a little bit high so I lowered it by three inches, before starting on the skirt. I took the waist measurement for the skirt from the bodice and used this to make a pattern. My fabric was not a large enough piece to allow me to cut the circle skirt in one which I would have prefered, so I had to make separate front and back sections, remembering to allow for a zipper. Having the side seams did have the advantage of allowing me to alter the fit easily when necessary.

As the skirt does have the side seams I played around with the idea of pockets in the seams but the fabric is really quite heavy and to add more fabric and more weight would be too much in this design. I’ll put some in-seam pockets into another project soon though.

Black Full Circle Skirt Dress - Lining Top of Dress
Black Full Circle Skirt Dress – Lining Top of Dress

The finished dress is fully lined, except for the sleeves. I am sure that there was more work in the construction of the dress lining than there was in the actual dress itself. I used a lovely black and white, antistatic, spotty lining fabric. I didn’t want the lining to show at the neck edge so I cut a facing from the black dress fabric and attached this to the neck edges of the back and front lining pieces, this was then under stitched.

Black Full Circle Skirt Dress - Sewing Avenue
Black Full Circle Skirt Dress – Sewing Avenue

Under stitching is done on the lining or the facing, inside the neck edge or sometimes at the arm hole edge. It is usually done with a slightly longer stitch length and by adding this extra row of stitching, about a quarter of an inch from the seam line, it keeps the seam edge in place and stops the fabric rolling out.

Black Full Circle Skirt Dress - Lining
Black Full Circle Skirt Dress – Lining

When I made the lining for the skirt of the dress, I made it as a straight skirt, not a full circle because I wanted it to stay in place when the dress moves about. Maybe when I’m dancing around! I also attached the skirt lining to the bodice the opposite way around at the waist so that the side seams would not be visible, they face inwards, against the legs. I was pleased with this little trick and will certainly remember to do it again on other dress and skirt linings. The other decision with this skirt lining was to leave it unattached to the dress. Linings are sometimes attached with a swing stitch or the hems can be joined together but in this instance that would not be a suitable option. As I said, I wanted the lining to stay in place when the dress moved about.

Black Full Circle Skirt Dress - Back
Black Full Circle Skirt Dress – Back
Black Full Circle Skirt Dress - Sewing Avenue
Black Full Circle Skirt Dress – Sewing Avenue

I have put in a concealed zip down the back of the dress. Don’t be put off using this type of zip as it is almost invisible on the garment and looks very neat and professional. You do however need the correct foot attachment for your sewing machine. You also need to make sure you are taking the correct amount of seam allowance when stitching it in place. there is a tendency when sewing in any type of zip to line up the edge of the zip with the edge of the fabric and this may well not be your seam allowance so measure it , check and make sure. You don’t want it baggy at the back!

Black Full Circle Skirt Dress - Finished Dress
Black Full Circle Skirt Dress – Finished Dress

I’m happy to make this dress another addition to my working wardrobe and possibly my socialising one as well.

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Happy sewing

High waisted black winter dress


Welcome to the second of my winter dress blogs for this new year, 2015.

I’m trying to keep nice and cosy as the weather gets a bit chilly while continuing to wear my dresses rather than reverting to trousers/pants to keep out the cold. Im super excited about adding more fabulous garments to my winter wardrobe.

The inspiration for this black and grey dress comes really from looking at some pictures of “celebs” in their winter wear, in particular Victoria Beckham, and noticing how she manages to dress in warm winter skirts and dresses but still manages to look as stylish as always.

So I’ve pinned the Victoria Beckham in a pencil skirt and black top looking elegant.

To be my starting point. I don’t usually do vintage but I think there is a bit of the vintage pencil skirt about this design idea. I’ve also made a quick sketch, which I always like to do as part of my making process. This helps me make better fabric and pattern style choices.

High Waisted Dress - Sketch
High Waisted Dress – Sketch

The two fabrics I’ve selected for making this dress are both heavy weight jersey. The grey jersey has a woven floral design on it, not printed, and the black is simply a solid colour. Both have a two way stretch, although a lot more so in width than the length, which will be good for the comfort and fit.

I made the pattern pieces by redesigning my basic sheath dress pattern. I wanted it to give the illusion that is was a high waisted skirt with a little black, long sleeve top. So I cut the pattern in two at a line 3 inches or 8 cm above my natural waistline. Then I added the seam allowances onto both the new skirt part of the pattern and the new top part so that they would still be the correct length when sewn back together.

High Waisted Dress - Fabric pattern
High Waisted Dress – Fabric pattern

The jersey fabric was extremely easy to sew together with my sewing machine and it went together fast. When I cut out the fabric pattern pieces I was mindful to make sure that the widthways stretch was going around the body. I keep trying the dress on, checking for the fit. I wanted it to be quite snug and figure hugging but at the same time not too restrictive.

High waisted dress fitting
High waisted dress fitting

While doing the fitting I decided to take the waist in by a total of 4 inches. WOW! This was because of the stretch in the fabric which was probably a little more than I had anticipated. Jersey fabrics do vary greatly in this respect. You can measure for the amount of stretch before starting a project and next time I use jersey fabric I will do this better. I also took about 6 inches off the seams tapering down towards the bottom of the hem just below the knee.

High Waisted Dress - inside seams
High Waisted Dress – inside seams

The original dress pattern has a zip in the back seam however, much to my delight, when I was trying the dress on I realised that the stretch in the fabric would allow me to sew the back seam up and have the dress as a pull on over the head.

High Waisted Dress - Neck facing
High Waisted Dress – Neck facing
High Waisted Dress - Neck facing
High Waisted Dress – Neck facing

I made the pattern pieces for the back and front neck facings by cutting up the bodice pattern pieces. Because I draw out my own pattern pieces I don’t mind cutting into them and making alterations. If I want to make the same style of dress again in the future, there would probably be an aspect of it that I would want to change and do differently anyway. However, if I invest in a commercial pattern someone else has produced then I don’t tend to cut into it, I trace it off and alter it from there, especially if it comes in multiple sizes. Look carefully at the sizing on commercial patterns, they are usually not the same as clothing sizes for shop bought RTW. The pattern sizes tend to come out a size or two smaller. Old vintage patterns can come out even smaller so always check the measurements against your own body measurements and make any necessary alterations to the pattern before you begin.

I am very pleased with the finished fit of this high waisted black winter dress. The vintage look certainly shows off the waist. It’s nice to be able to wear a figure flattering outfit at this time of year. So often winter clothes are shapeless and baggy. The fact that there is no zip to worry about is a big bonus too. I shall enjoy wearing this mock 1950 vintage pencil skirt/dress everywhere. It is everything I wanted it to be, comfortable,warm and a little bit stylish.

High waisted black dress
High waisted black dress

What do you think of this dress? Do you think I should have put the zip in the back after all? Please let me know in the comments below.

Thanks for reading

Happy sewing