Simplicity 1284 review


For a long time, I didn’t think very highly of 60s fashion. Maybe it’s because our idea of the 60s is mainly focused on the hippie movement, which has never much appealed to me because I prefer clothes that are neat and well-fitting, but somewhere down the line I finally realized that the hippies were, well, counterculture. Once I realized that the mainstream 60s fashions were something else entirely, I was hooked!

Here is Simplicity 1284, my first journey into what is solidly 60s (as opposed to transitional 60s, which you can find in my review of Butterick 6318). This style is definitely a departure from what I usually wear, which involves full skirts and fitted waistlines, but I just love it anyway! My grandmother, who was in her early-mid twenties when this style was current (i.e. she was exactly the age I am now) was intrigued by the idea that I was copying a style she clearly remembered wearing when she was young, so that was fun as well.

20170528_170445.jpgBoth pieces are made of the same fabric, a 53% linen and 47% rayon blend from Joann Fabrics, in contrasting colors. The dress (view A) went together without a hitch, even considering that this was the first time I ever installed an invisible zipper! The vest (view D) was a little bit harder. For one thing, cutting interfacing for such a long length was a pain, though I successfully got each part cut as one piece in the end. Also, once the facing was in, it still flipped out too easily, so I tacked it in at 5-inch intervals while careful to make sure the stitching didn’t show through on the outside.

I also had a hard time with the shoulder-to-bust darts on the vest, but they turned out right eventually. The real trick with them was not in the sewing, but in the ironing—they need to be ironed on a curve.

One other thing that I did was grade the pattern out in the skirt. Unfortunately my size on the upper half (12) and my size on the lower half (16) don’t come in the same envelope. To solve this, I used size 12 as my base pattern, and graded from 12 at the bust to 14 at the waist, then found the horizontal that equated to hip level and graded out an extra half inch, since the envelope showed size 16 as having 2 inches more ease at the hip than did size 14.

Two things I would have done differently: First, I wish I had made the skirt just a little bit longer, since I prefer my knees covered. Also, the neckline has a tendency to pull upwards and choke when I sit down, so I would probably lower it about an inch. It’s nothing that will keep me from wearing the dress as it is, but it would have been nice to not worry about where my hem and neckline are going to slide to whenever I sit down or stand up.

All told, I am very happy with this project. The two parts look great together or apart, and I’ve even worn the vest over a white blouse and jeans. It also helps that I made them from solid colors so they are easier to mix and match! I’m usually tempted to make everything in bold prints, but we need something more plain now and then so things don’t get too crazy.

Additional photos:

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Butterick 6318 review

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I recently finished a long-awaited project using this beautiful Spanish printed cotton I’d been holding onto for a year. I’ve been to Spain a few times, by virtue of my parents currently living only a short flight away, and one of my favorite discoveries in Madrid is that there is still a general enthusiasm for the homemade that I don’t often see in the other places I’ve been.

But this is a review of a pattern, not a country, so with a quick shout-out to the helpful worker at Almacén de Pontejos who took the time to find the perfect thread and notions for me, let’s get started!fabric.png

The fabric is a very pretty 3-color print on a plain cotton weave, and from the moment I saw it I knew I wanted a full-skirted dress out of it. It came in the 60-inch width and I bought 3 meters of it, though I didn’t know exactly which pattern I would use with it (or if I would create my own). When I finally got around to planning the dress, I considered McCall’s 7086 (view A) until I realized that I was 60 centimeters short, and even if I did the narrow-skirted version I would have 80 centimeters go to waste, plus a narrow-skirted dress in a fabric that I wanted to make a full skirt with.

Instead, I decided on Butterick 6318, which was exactly the silhouette I wanted and with just the right amount of fabric. The top of the dress is especially easy, with a simple neckline and dolman sleeves, which don’t include a shoulder seam, so I was able to finish most of the cutting and assembly in one afternoon, including extra time spent to match the fabric along the seams.

The zipper took me more time than I wanted it to, mostly because I was trying to make it perfect, but I’m happy with the result. It’s no different from other back zippers I’ve done in the past.

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dress back (with basting, but before the zipper was installed); I made sure the print matched along the Y-axis, since there is a visible “stripe” produced by the yellow leaves.

I made one change while making it, which was to make the dress sash double-layered, since my fabric doesn’t look as nice on the wrong side. This has the added advantage of letting me choose to tie it either back-to-front or front-to-back!

The other change I plan to make is the addition of pockets, which I always include in wide skirts. The reason why I didn’t already include pockets is that the side seams are actually side-front seams, and I didn’t want to be kicking my phone and wallet any time I walked. However, now that it’s all put together, I think I can open up part of the side seam and install regular pockets after all, because the seams turned out to be a little bit closer to the side than I expected them to be. Anyone else who makes the pattern might want to figure out where the side seams end up falling when they wear it if they are going to do the same.

All in all, I’m really pleased with this pattern, and I feel like it did justice to my Spanish cotton. It’s a bit less fitted than most similar dresses I’ve worn before, seeing as it makes use of dolman sleeves, which makes sense with it fitting into a sort of transitional period between the fit-and-flare dresses of the 1950s and looser mod styles of the 1960s. (The website listing states that the pattern is from 1961.) I also liked that since it wasn’t very fitted, I only needed to worry about my waist measurement, since I never fit perfectly into dress sizes. Usually for me, if it fits in the waist, it’s too loose in the bust and too tight in the hips, unless I take extra time to grade the pattern for my measurements. But since this pattern made a dress which is only supposed to fit tightly in the waist, and was loose elsewhere, I didn’t have to worry about any of that! It was an easy, quick sewing project, and I love the finished result.

Falling In Love with Fashion

I didn’t start out as a fashion geek. As a kid, I was more interested in how my clothes felt than in what they looked like, and I took pride in not being “one of those girls” who saves all her money to spend on new clothing and fancy shoes. Oh, how times have changed.

For one thing, I became interested in the way clothing communicates. By seeing the way someone dresses, we know at least a few things about how they want to be seen, and by taking advantage of that fact we can influence how we are seen by others. I also developed a better sense of what clothing was pleasing to me, whether visually or in how I felt while wearing it. I started learning how to dress in ways that made me feel strong and confident. As I improved in my skill at finding Emma-approved clothing, I started to notice clothing more and more, and when I was fourteen years old I found the one picture that pushed me down the rabbit hole into the world of historical fashion. That picture was the cover illustration to the Penguin Classics edition of Little Women.51wpwrazqel-_sx324_bo1204203200_

From then on, I was in awe.

I tried my best to recreate the images of beautiful old-fashioned clothes, but my sewing skills were mostly relegated to pillowcases and pincushions. I was in over my head. I tried to buy a replica costume from a Chinese tailor, but it came out looking like a costume dress, made of satin polyester with a drooping collar and a padded bust. I wore it to Halloween anyway, but I knew it was just a start.

In the years since, both my knowledge and skill have improved greatly. I’ve researched as much as I can about historical styles, techniques, and everything else I can think of, and built up a library of books and images about the fashions I love most. Now that my sewing skills are finally at the point where I can feel confident in making my own reproductions, I’m taking a leap and starting my own historical sewing journey!

My focus and interests are primarily Western fashions from about the 1700s to 1918, plus a bit of mid-20th-century styles. I also hope to devote some attention to non-Western clothing, which I have come to appreciate especially as I have lived overseas and been introduced to the incredible clothing histories of other cultures. Some of my favorite styles of clothing are listed below:


Edwardian (1901-1918) (Late Edwardian is my absolute favorite)
photograph of the actress Lily Elsie

Regency and Late Georgian (1800-1820)
dress owned by Princess Charlotte, read more about it here

1850s dress in striped silk brocade, with those fabulous pagoda sleeves

1950s (plus late 40s and early 60s)
that perfect fit-and-flare silhouette

American Colonial era (1750s-1770s in particular)
1750s robe a l’anglaise, unusually bereft of embroidery but in a lovely color

Chinese Han clothing
called Hanfu in Mandarin
look at an excellent timeline here

Moroccan caftans

traditional formal dress in Morocco

Vietnamese Ao Dai
pictured is the modern style
another excellent timeline for this style of dress