Sunday, March 9, 2014

Butterick 4724: The Story of My Saint Barbara's Day Dress

This morning I was relaxing with a cup of coffee while I surfed the internet, and I wandered onto my favorite vintage pattern site, Mom's Patterns.  It's always fun to find a pattern that I had back in the day, even more so when it's a pattern I actually made.  Imagine my surprise and delight when I found this, Butterick 4724 in the "just arrived this week" section:

From the website:  1990, 90s Glamour, Retro Evening Clothing Patterns - MISSES' DRESS Close-fitting, lined, boned dress, mid-knee or evening length (center back) and above mid-knee (center front), has princess seams and back zipper. A: tapered, short sleeves with boning and elastic. B: stays with attached, contrast ruffles with side front seams. B,C: inside belt. C: bias drape with bow and pleated knot and self-lined skirt. 

And here it is, View C, made up in Artillery Red Satin for Saint Barbara's Day.

Saint Barbara is the patron saint of Field Artillery and St. Barbara's Day, which falls on December 4th, is recognized with a military ball.

I made this dress for the 1990 St. Barbara's ball.  We were living in Germany at the time, and I had the pattern, but I had to have my mom send me the materials for the dress from the states.  If I recall correctly, it was about 7 yards of heavy satin, lining material, boning, zipper, etc.  She also got the shoes for me and had them dyed to match the dress fabric.  The fabric had to be just the right color- Artillery Red- for this special occasion.

I was very proud of this dress.  Other than my wedding dress, it was the biggest project I had made up until this point.  It was also the first time I made a length adjustment to a pattern... or really any kind of adjustment to a pattern.  I didn't know a thing about fitting.  I was young and relatively slim, so I just made things straight out of the envelope and assumed that the less than perfect fit was something I had to deal with just like RTW.  But I had noticed that dresses were often too short through the body, and I figured I could fix that.

I had never heard of a muslin, or a toile.  But I just decided to pull some ugly fabric out of my stash and cut just the bodice out and sew it up to try on.  When I got it on, I pulled it up so the bust was in the right place and I drew a line right onto the fabric right at my natural waist.  Then I tugged it down so the hips were in the right place and drew another line at my natural waist.  The distance between the two drawn lines, if I remember correctly, was about 1.5 inches.  So I cut my pattern pieces at the waist and added that much length.  The finished dress turned out perfect.  And I've been making that adjustment ever since.

While I was working on this dress we found out that my husband's unit was going to be sent to the Persian Gulf right after the new year.  The St. Barbara's Day Ball was canceled due to the preparations for deployment.  I finished the dress anyway and he left in January 1991.  Operation Desert Storm began on January 17, 1991.

My husband returned safely later that spring.  By the time December 4th rolled around again I was pregnant with our second son and I couldn't squeeze into my red dress.  I made a cute little baby-doll dress from a Vogue pattern that year, and the red dress sat in the closet.

It wasn't until St. Barbara's Day 1992 that I finally got to wear my dress- two years after making it.  That's when the photo above was taken.  It's one of my favorite pictures of the two of us.

I think I wore that dress for one more event a year or two later.  And I still love the look of that pattern. And I still like to wear red.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

What time is it? Tunic Time!

The thing that I was afraid would happen has happened.  I was so productive during the Christmas holidays when I was off from work- both sewing and blogging.  And then the holidays were over and I went back to work.  The hours have been long, the days have been short, and I just don't get anything done here at home.  It's all I can do sometimes in the evening to just leaf through an issue of Burda Style.  I'm hoping that with the days getting longer and Daylight Savings Time starting next weekend, that things will improve.  I seem to have more energy during the long summer evenings than I do in the cold dark winter.

I have so many projects planned.  There's the Vogue dress out of teal ponte, the herringbone print ponte that is still deciding what it wants to be, the Traveler Dress that sits unfinished on the ironing board.

But last weekend, I turned my attention to tunics.  We have casual Friday at work and it's nice to trade the pantyhose in for jeans.  The problem is that I have so few "nice" tops to wear with jeans at work.  The things I do have tend to be close fitting, and sometimes I just really want something loose, long, and comfortable.  Yet stylish- don't forget stylish.

So I turned to a stack of Burda back issues that were sitting out on a shelf.  I didn't even dig into my whole stash of magazines and I was able to find several patterns that looked interesting.  I spent last Sunday evening tracing in the hopes of getting a couple of muslins made this weekend.

The first contender was this one, number 119 from the August 2013 issue:

It's got the simple shape and length that I want and I love the curved yoke seams, the dropped shoulders, and the front yokes that extend into long, wide ties.  The sleeve cuffs with buttons are very nice, too, but I'll probably opt for elastic.  It will be simpler to make, and will allow me to push the sleeves up.  (Plus, the "cuff-less" pattern pieces look like just the right length for my little T-rex arms!)

The pattern is traced and ready to go, but I'm still mulling over some construction ideas.  I'm going to deviate from Burda's instructions...

The second pattern that I traced was chosen because I've long liked the look of dress #107 from the February 2012 issue:

It's super, super simple.  I could have just used that to make a shorter top, but Burda kindly provided a shorter view:

I love the simplicity here.  Burda used the play of the shiny satin against the matte wrong side of the fabric to make it interesting.

I went ahead and traced view A, but depending on how the muslin turns out, I think I may want a little extra length and I may play around with adding a contrast band at the bottom like the dress.

I have a pretty apple green satin picked out for this.  If all goes well, I can see wearing it with a statement necklace and white jeans this spring.  (This is the year that I plan to add white jeans to my wardrobe, darn it!)

And if the top turns out, I may even make the dress.  I even have coral satin in my stash!  I've always just admired this dress and then turned the page thinking that I couldn't wear a straight boxy dress with my figure.  I discovered last year that I like straight and boxy- and the worst that could happen is that I might make a muslin and not like it.  So what, right?

So I'm off to dig around in the stash for muslin fabric and to find that green satin.  Do you like tunics?  What is your favorite tunic pattern?