Hot! The “Almost Designer” Dress | Debi Fry


The Facts

Fabric: 1.5 metres each of red and brown crepe back satin (matte crepe side on outside, shiny satin side on inside) £10
Pattern: Simplicity 3948
Year: c.  1941
Notions: 1 zipper so far, perhaps another zipper or the blasted buttons and buttonloops £3

Time to complete: 7 hours so far

Wear again? I am really liking how it looks so far…to be determined!

Total Cost: ~£13

If I were on project runway today, my model would be walking down the catwalk without sleeves and without any properly sewed closures…oh and no hem. sigh.  I'd probably get booted off.  Hopefully the general public would save me!

Ah, I had such high hopes for this week's challenge.  I chose as my inspiration the 'little moose' dress by Elizabeth Hawes.

  Picture 47
Elizabeth Hawes was an amazing American Designer who did a lot of work during the 30's and 40's.  I was inspired by some of her fashions after seeing the post over at the Colette blog on her designs.  Definitely check it out as she made some amazing dresses!

Hawes felt that the body and its clothes must work together. She thought that American women should not accept French fashion as the standard. Her goal was to bring stylish clothing with an American sensibility to the masses and believed that all women deserved to have beautiful and functional clothes. (from the Colette blog post)

here, here! Plus she wrote a book called "Fashion is Spinach"…I like this lady!

I used a Simplicity pattern from 1941:

Simplicity pattern I chose View 1 and made a 'faux bolero' in a red colour while the main dress is in brown.  I am really liking it so far. 

The faux bolero piece is attached by a lapped seam to the main dress bodice.  I knew trying to do a lapped seam on crepe back satin would be a nightmare.  So I hand basted the entire bodice 'faux bolero' piece to the main dress:

DSC03513 Though time consuming, that worked wonders and kept the fabric perfectly still so that I could topstitch the lapped seam!

So what happened this week???  Well, all was going on smoothly.  My sister was in town but I thought I could manage.  I got up early and sewed and then was hoping to finish it up last night.  Then….I encountered the blasted button loops.  See on version 2, the cute little buttons going up the front of the dress?  Easy peasy right?  Good lord, how I hate making button loop tubing.  It has to be really small because the buttons have to be small.  I don't know how people sew a really tiny piece of fabric and then turn it inside out. I even have a 'loop turner' which is an entirely useless contraption.  I spent 3 hours on the blasted button loops.  grrrrrr….  I am contemplating whether I just go with a front hidden zipper as in View 1.

I don't think this would have been a problem normally as I would have just kept going…perservering.  But this week is a conglamerate of lots of things happening.  My sister was in town and we toured around Scotland.  To be fair, I could have skipped out early one evening to do some sewing but I hardly ever see my family now that we live in Scotland!  And as you read this I am in Portugal for a conference…which I, ahem, have not really prepped sufficiently for! Oh and we are moving next Wednesday! giggle.  Start the circus music!! (I'm actually going to sit out next week's challenge as we are moving right in the middle of the week).

But stay tuned! I am really excited for our new place we are moving too.  I can't wait to get the sewing room set up and then it's pretty calm for the rest of the summer!

Oh and here are some fun photos of my sister and I.  For some reason we think some signs are hilariously funny.  This is on the Isle of Skye:

We giggled for hours due to this sign! hahahha.

But here's a nice picture also on the Isle of Skye…such a beautiful place!


What about you? Any visiting family this summer?


Debi from My Happy Sewing Place

Debi Fry LOVES vintage patterns. She started sewing in 2009 and has been going since. In 2011, she participated in the Sew Weekly challenge and looks forward to the new challenges that lie in store!


Comments are closed.

  1. Nice looking so far! Have you tried using a bobby pin or safety pin to turn the little loops inside out? I’ve been shown this trick and it’s much easier than a loop turner I’ve found! My loop turner is also useless (it always falls out, grr).
    You definitely made the right choice to hang out with your sister, especially since you hardly see her! The dress will get done :) Good luck with your move next week!

  2. Button loops terrify me! They dress looks amazing of course. I think I tried to read Fashion is Spinach once, but it is hard to find a copy and I couldn’t take it out of the uni library. I’ve seen costumers do an invisible zipper or lapped zipper and just sew all the little buttons on top of it, so that it looks like they function.
    Good luck moving!

  3. Button loops can be terribly frustrating! I’ve made a them in the past and it’s a trick to get them the right width and then apply them (I just end up applying them as a continuous piece and then clipping the loops apart; it makes it easier). I love the faux bolero though! :)
    Best of luck with moving!

  4. Those button loops sound incredibly fiddley to me and personally I wouldn’t bother sewing the tube so I had to turn it inside out. I’d cut some fabric 4x the size I needed it to be, fold the outsides to the centre (iron that) then fold it in half (iron again) and then stitch it together. Kind of a bit like a small double fold bias binding. That should work and be a whole lot less frustrating than trying to fiddle about with tiny tubes, providing you can cope with the outside stitches of course, haha :)
    Love the dress though it is fab, hope to see finished pictures soon! :)

  5. I hate loop turning of any kind! It always takes forever! Grrrr. But your dress looks really darling so far! If you really love the button look, you could always just do a zipper and tack the buttons on the outside just to get the look!

  6. Suggestion re the button loop just find some matching elastic…even elastic hair ties from the drug store work too. Even it’s not a perfect match go for it…also try bridal button loops, color with washfast marker to match fabric…that might work too.
    Anyhow, I gotta say your hair looks fabulous. I miss trying curls in my hair. I need to get it longer and try again.

  7. Isn’t there some kind of lace or trim with preformed buttonholes (like this: You could sew it under the edge of one front and give it a go. Or is that a crazy idea?

  8. I used to do button loops ALL the time! Put 124 down the back of a wedding dress once… Easiest way I found to do it is use a big needle, you can even use the kind of sewing needle they use to sew the pieces of a knit sweater together (has a blunt end and a big eye). Thread it with a decent length of thread (think thicker thread too) and knot the end, sew a couple of catch stitches around one end of the sewn-to-be-turned loop fabric and just feed the needle down the tube. You don’t want the thread too long or too short, I used a 9″ piece or so in an 18″ tube. As you pull you’ll pull the tube inside out with a minimum of fuss – just make sure you do your ‘catch stitching’ down far enough from the end that it doesn’t pull out! I used to make pretty narrow tubes and this worked great. Sorry if the explanation is a little scattered, I’d do a powerpoint presentation on it if I had time : )

  9. I used to dread tubes too! This trick literally changed my (sewing) life!
    It’s a lovely dress, by the way. Keep up the fantastic work!

  10. Oh, those tubes make me crazy….I’ve given up on them more times than I can count! I love the look of the dress so far – it’s going to turn out fantastic, I’m sure!

  11. Oh, Debi, it’s already so pretty! I’m really looking forward to seeing the finished dress :) You’ve done brilliantly!
    Oi vey, those button loops are a headache, aren’t they? Ugh! I have been known to avoid a pattern simply because of those darned loops!

  12. This is going ot be a good one! and I can totally understand your pain when it comes to button loop drama, I ended up skipping them and using elastic strips, but this is no good either, particualrly for a fitted garment. How about putting faux buttons up the front and an invisible zip up the back?
    Glad your having fun with your family :) which should always come before sewing x

  13. Hi Debi, I usually use fine ribbon for the loops – it looks lovely and is so easy! Hope this helps…

  14. A sisterly visit is definitely worth a half-completed dress. I will look forward to seeing the final product however.
    Good Luck with your move and conference too.

  15. I’m with Mary Beth, I’ve often just used thin elastic as loops! I prefer them sometimes to metal ‘latch n hoop’ things.
    It’s look like my most favourite colour on you Debi! Keep going! And good luck moving!

  16. I mean the burgandy is my fave colour with your hair!

  17. It looks lovely :) Can you crochet the loops or make thread loops or something- oooh or use braid? I hope you figure it out soon anyway :) Can’t wait to see it!

  18. Debi, I give you so much credit for stopping where you did and enjoying your sister’s visit. It’s a beautiful dress that will get done in due time. You have a lot on your plate plus those darn buttons…now that’s some serious drama for sure!

  19. It’s looking SO good Debi, I love the two colors you have chosen and the faux bolero effect! Can’t wait to see this completed, it gonna be just awesome! I really hate those loops and try to stay clear of them. Yikes!

  20. that tip looks AMAZING!

  21. moving mama! good luck!
    that dress, i must say, would really look great in a certain bar. i think we’re going to have to coordinate outfits. i abhor button loops too– ann’s tip looks really great & i’m going to use it if i ever get the nerve again…
    oh, and your hair ROCKS.

  22. arrrr three hours on loop turning I would of thrown the thing out the window he he. So far so good Debi I think she will turn out a treat. Good luck with your move too.

  23. That is an amazing hairstyle! I love your dress so far – I’m so impressed how much you got done considering you have so much going on! My next project involves button loops… I am approaching it with caution! And amusing holiday signs? GOLD. Hope your moving week goes smoothly xx

  24. Thanks Amanda! I did try the safety pin but they were all too big to fit down the tiny loop (including the small safety pin)! Yeah! I am really excited to have had some quality time with my sis!!

  25. ooohhh! Fab! Thanks for the link!!

  26. Thanks Casey! That’s a good idea to keep them as the continuous loop!

  27. ooohh! I like this idea! I so hate turning things inside out!

  28. Thanks Stephanie! That’s a good idea too! And zippers are much easier to insert that button loops!

  29. Hmmm..I could always get some thin cording that matches! I like that idea! Thanks so much!

  30. Thanks Vicki! That is a fabulous idea! Thanks for the link!!

  31. Wow! I can’t imagine doing 124 button loops! You are a sewing goddess! I think this is the method that the pattern actually suggested! I did try it but I think I cut the seam allowance too close to the fabric as the fabric split apart in several places due to the turning process….but maybe if I left a bit more of a seam allowance it would be fine!

  32. OH WOW! Thank you so much Ann!!!

  33. precisely :) I’m going to give a go again…maybe after a nap and a glass of wine ;)

  34. Another great idea! Thanks Molly! And I did have a really wonderful time with my sis!

  35. Hi Heather! That is a great idea! And my local fabric store has really nice ribbons!

  36. Thanks Dear! Movin’ tomorrow! woot, woot!

  37. threat loops is another good idea! I like that! Thanks Rachel!

  38. Thanks Cathe! I am easily swayed by good company and several bottles of wine :)

  39. Thanks Adey! I love those two colour together too!!!

  40. Thanks dear! And yes, coordinating outfits! SO MY THING :)

  41. Thanks Kazz! We move tomorrow!! yay! I did resort to a couple of bottles of wine after the ordeal :)

  42. Thanks Amanda! I loved the holiday signs too! *giggle* Ooohhh can’t wait to hear more about your next project. This dress totally reminded me of your grandma’s dress with all those tiny buttons and button loops!!