Friday, March 19, 2010

My Mad Men dress

This is my "Mad Men" dress, the second dress I've drafted myself:

As I mentioned, many of my drafting projects have been "inspired by"--ie. straight-up knock-offs of--ready-to-wear garments designed by someone else. But the design for this dress was entirely my own...I thought. I envisioned a slim-fitting sheath dress in a dark wool plaid with elbow-length sleeves, bias trim on the sleeves and collar, and an asymmetrical button detail. Here's my original sketch:

I used this 3-season wool from gorgeous fabrics, which I had seen online and had in mind while I was designing the dress. The fabric was expensive, but I was able to get the dress out of 2 yards, which kept the cost within reason. I always intended for the dress to be fully-lined, and I'm glad because, although its beautiful, this wool is also itchy!

The aesthetic was definitely retro and Mad-Men-esque, and I started referring to the project as my Mad Men dress while I was sewing it. Then, low and behold, look what I saw!

Now, I can't be certain, but I'm pretty sure I designed my dress before I saw the episode where she wears this. Peggy's dress has some outrageous details (like the plaid bow at the waist and the off-center button placket on the skirt) that I don't think I could pull off in real life, especially as someone with a fuller (indeed, one might say, a more Joan-like) figure. But the silhouette is similar, as is the scale of the plaid. And check out the flat-fall collar cut on the bias--look familiar?

From a drafting and construction perspective, there were several "firsts" involved in this project. This was my first time drafting and sewing a kick-pleat, and the lining proved a bit tricky. I tried to copy the construction of a RTW Banana Republic skirt, and I almost got it right! The sewing is a bit dodgey, but not bad for a first effort.

Kick-pleat on the outside--not so bad:

But on the inside...eep!

Oh well! I'll do better next time.

I also put a good bit of thought into how to do the overlapping part on the collar and the sleeve bands. I ended up sewing the band and the facing together at the lower edge and around the tab. Then I slashed almost to the stitching line right where the tab section ended, trimmed the rest of the seam allowances super-short, then turned it and pressed it. Then, I sewed the collar/band to the dress and hand-stitched the facing on the under-/inside. (If that makes any sense.)

Here's a close-up of the collar detail:

Finally, not to gloat, but check out this invisible zipper. Not to shabby!

In the end I think I achieved a look that is vintage-inspired without being too hard-core or costume-y, which was my goal. I love the fit, although it's a little short for my comfort-zone when I'm sitting. And I got compliments when I wore it to a recent conference. So I'm calling this dress a success!

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