Friday, January 24, 2014

At Last, My Simplicity 3833 Has Come Along

A few things changed in my thinking since the last time we spoke about Simplicity 3833.

I was agonizing about whether I should use a highly prized piece of lime green wool doubleknit for this dress, or whether I ought to save it for a more practical tunic top or cardigan (um, yes, the latter). But I didn't want to put this pattern away, after having taken the time to test it, without making a wearable dress or top (the muslin still reeks of petrochemicals, so I think it was indeed just a muslin, destined for Goodwill or the garbage).

Inspiration struck: what if I combined a leather bodice (an of-the-moment trend) with a wonderful vintage wool boucle tweed that came to me by way of a yard sale a few years ago (a use of stash)? Even though this idea simultaneously broke a few sewing semi-resolutions (wearing gray, making dry-clean-only garments, making pieces that don't really fit my work-at-home, swing dancing mom lifestyle), I was seized by it and forged ahead.

The lambskin for the bodice was another stash item, purchased from FabricMart two or three years ago for $20. I used slightly less than half that skin, and half of another, much smaller and lighter weight, lambskin for the piping. In total I would guess it was about $15 worth of leather, plus $6 worth of wool boucle. I lined the dress in a teal blue acetate from FabricMart, which I stocked up on for $2/yard, so certainly the lining cost no more than $4. Total cost for a wool and leather dress, including the invisible zipper, thread and button, was under $30.

As I worked (and worked) on the dress, I was haunted by the worry that this would be a successful but never worn garment. I was happy to be using materials I have hoarded for some time, happy to be incorporating leather into a garment and happy to be using Simplicity 3833, but anxious about wasting precious sewing time.

The neckline, sleeve hems and hem band are trimmed with very tiny piping made from a thin, lightweight lambskin

And do you know what? A beloved, but elderly, aunt died last week, and I otherwise had nothing appropriate to wear for her funeral, which will be held tomorrow. She was a beautiful woman, the wife of a doctor and a fabulous dresser. Through the eighties and nineties, she wore designer ultrasuede suits, St. John knits and all sorts of other wonderful things. It wouldn't feel right to wear some sad old black career jacket and skirt to her funeral. But I have this! So the making of it turned out to be worthwhile after all.

This time around I made a 1" swayback alteration which helped the fit in the back greatly. I'm holding my hands up so you can see that I attached the back belt higher than specified in the pattern. The pattern would have you align the top of the belt with the bottom of the bodice, but that looked too jagged to me.

The top of the center back seam needs a hook and eye, but who knows if I will get around to installing one before tomorrow? I'm happy with the belt closure. Making a buttonhole in this leather did not work out at all, so I used one of my SnapSource snaps for the functional closure. Then I removed the shank from a gray pearlized plastic button with a pair of wirecutters, and hot-glued the flat button over the snap. It seems pretty secure and it lays nice and flat.

The belt does so much to add detail and interest to the back of the dress.

Here is an in-progress photo of the bodice, showing how I cut a shaped piece of lightweight fusible knit interfacing and applied it to the neckline to prevent stretching. (I also staystitched the neckline.)

I would love to have cut the sleeves from the leather, but I didn't have anything like enough. Also, the length of the dress turned out much too short, which is why I added the hem band. Although I like it fine, I wish I had cut the dress longer to begin with.

Glad I made it, glad I have it to wear tomorrow and very glad to be done with it and moving on to something else!


  1. You make the loveliest things. You have a classic beauty and the simple yet elegant style of this dress seems perfect for you. Another great garment!

  2. Love this dress, so elegant! Sewing mistakes are often design inspiration - I love the hem band another wonderful design detail! I also loved the short story of your elegant aunt - someone I would loved to have known! Celebrate her life!

  3. I think you have made a gorgeous, couture level dress that fits you well and looks great on you. Just the making of such a piece would be worthwhile, let along knowing that it's there in your closet if the occasion occurs. How fortuitous that you finished in time for your aunt's funeral. The hem band is one of the style elements that I noticed and liked right away.

  4. You made another great dress winter dress! I'm glad you now have something to wear in honor of your aunt. I hope you also will find other places to wear it, too:)

  5. I love your version of this! It is just awesome!!!!

  6. Absolutely beautiful! I'm sorry to hear about your aunt, although what a lovely dress to wear to honor her.

  7. What a beautiful and elegant dress. And it's fitting that it will be worn at your stylish aunt's funeral. I love the leather bodice, the belt detail, and the extra band at the hem. Lovely. xx

  8. What a very elegant dress and so very well made.