Sunday, November 24, 2019

My first Ralph Rucci - maybe not my last

The dust has settled on my complicated project, Vogue 1239. To recap, I needed a dress, I had the pattern, the fabric, the lining and everything else I needed except the thread in stash. Except I didn't have enough fabric to cut out the belt. And, I later discovered, I hadn't actually read the pattern instructions very carefully. But it worked out in the end.

Weird pattern pieces
This is a very complicated pattern in my opinion, although Vogue apparently doesn't share my view, having designed it as being only of "Average" difficulty. I think a pattern for a fully lined dress that includes asymmetrical left and right pieces, multiple pieces that look absolutely nothing like anything I had seen before (despite 40+ years of sewing), darts that turn a corner, multiple gusset inset points and miles of edge- and top-stitching is more difficult than Average.

Take a look at the photo showing the upper pieces of the dress laid out, single layer, on my fabric. Anything look familiar? I didn't think so.

Oh yes, and the instructions had 67 steps, which is a lot. I confess I didn't read them all the way through before proceeding.

I did read the pattern enough to realize that it called for absolutely no interfacing. Given the stand collar and the long somewhat bias edges of the centre front, that didn't strike me as a good idea. I interfaced the facing pieces. This stabilized the edges so they wouldn't stretch out of shape.

I also read enough to realize that the method for sewing the pockets would definitely not be easy, if it could be done at all. These are in-seam pockets with a top-stitched opening. No Vogue, you cannot sew the pocket bag first and edge- and top-stitch the opening afterwards.

I did it in the opposite order.

I told you in my last post that 2.5 metres was the perfect amount of fabric for this dress, but not enough to get the belt (an extremely long bias piece). If I had read further into the instructions I would have realized it also wasn't enough to cut out the lowest tier of the skirt in the fashion fabric. I had cut all inner layer pieces out of lining and used up almost all of my fabric (a necessity) before I realized this error. I had also completely sewn the dress and mostly sewn the lining.

I thought about why Ralph Rucci would want the lower tier in fashion fabric. Maybe just because it might show, but more likely to match the amount of heft of the other edges of the dress, which are faced. And also because the hem of this dress isn't meant to be limp. So I improvised. Really, what else could I do?

Sewing the hem facing
I retrofitted the layer by applying some very light fusible interfacing to the lowest layer. Then I applied a sort of facing for the hem (about 6cm wide) just to get the right heft for the very bottom of the dress which is edge- and top-stitched like all the other edges. I had *just* enough fabric scraps to cut this facing but not enough to get it all on the right grain.

Then once I had invisibly attached the hem facing to the interfacing, I was able to turn the lining under at the hem and hand-fell it to the facing. This worked extremely well, in fact better than it would have if I had had enough fashion fabric for that lower tier of the skirt.

The pattern instructs you to make the entire outer dress and then the entire inner dress with faced edges, and bag the two together. You turn it right side out through a little hole in one of the lining seams. I don't know about you, but my sewing isn't precise enough to make it very likely that there would be no need for any adjustment to get the outer dress and lining to hang absolutely perfectly. My method left plenty of room for fudging so my hem doesn't pull and the lining doesn't show anywhere.
At Frocktails Montreal

I'm very happy with the finished dress. I wore it to Frocktails and got a comment or two. It was warm and comfortable. I had attached a hook and eye at the outer waist as well as the inner waist tie that the pattern calls for and it felt very secure.

So now I have to say a couple of words about the belt.

No fabric? No problem! I had the perfect leather in stash. However it was far too soft and supple for the obi-style belt this dress needs. Luckily, the stash came through with a stiffer skin and I used two layers of that leather to interface and then line the belt.

I was a bit nervous about making the belt but it really isn't that hard to work with leather and if you have enough rubber cement you can basically do anything. The only sewing in this belt is where I attached the ties to the ends of the long main piece.

Now I have to make more clothes that need a rusty red-orange obi-style belt...


  1. I love the finished dress. You did a great job and, I think, the leather belt is perfect. I would not call this an average pattern at all.

  2. Well done. It looks fabulous. The belt is perfect and that is why we need a stash of ALL things :)

  3. Lovely dress, but wow what a lot of work in it. The belt is beautiful (and you have a waist to wear it!)

  4. I'd love to know more about how you actually made the belt. I've worked with leather before, but I've only sewed it. I'm curious about how you did it and also your decision process to get to the final combo of leathers.

  5. Your dress is fantastic! I *almost* regret passing this pattern by after seeing yours. I'll satisfy myself with saving the line drawings. And I'd agree that it's more than Average skill needed, especially if they have things that can't be done in the instructions. This looks like a great subject for a pattern puzzle contest - where the pieces are shown and people figure out the resulting item.

  6. This is stunning and stunning on you. This brickish red is definitely your color and the fabric and leather look so rich. You did an amazing job with the construction and your years of experience show. Every call you made that disagreed with Vogue only added to the quality. Wonderful!

  7. All that is way over my head. Above my pay grade as some say. Read the whole piece and understood every fifth word or so. It was delightful to see the finished product. I don't think know squat about tailoring but I know beauty when I see it. Bravo!!!

  8. This design is really interesting and the dress is so perfect for you. It has an interesting sleeve shape, no?

  9. Your sewing skills always impress me. That dress is perfect and a pure delight for the eyes. You look gorgeous!

  10. Average my eye! Your dress is a stunner and I'm so glad that you whipped that pattern into shape. Amazing belt also.

  11. This is awesome! Great saves, and yes, not an “average” difficulty at all!

  12. This is gorgeous! Now make a t-shirt to cleanse the palate 😁

  13. Wow this is so beautiful. I sew but in comparison totally looks so nice on you. Congrats to a fearless stitcher just for attempting.!!!

  14. It's a stunner! I am not sure that I've seen any other versions of this dress, though I do remember the pattern. I like your fabric a lot more than I liked the original version. I am astonished that you actually had leather to match. Average skill? Really?

  15. I am just beginning to sew clothing, so I am in awe of your problem solving. There's the benefit of years of experience! The final result is gorgeous and I'm so glad that your post of a talk about quilting helped me find your blog.

  16. I'm in AWE of your stunning dress. Oh this is Katharine in Brussels, but my husband is signed into Google ;) your dress is that amazing - and that leather obi belt! - how you retrieved it from the jaws of death retrofitting it - I just had to say something. I'd better stop gushing before poor hubs gets all embarassed ;)