Wednesday, October 17, 2012

One hit wonder - the grand finale

Here you go, the dress that got me started on this series of "One Hit Wonders".  Back in May during a break from teaching, I showed my sewing student Karen a few of my previous makes. These are dresses that I labored over but only had limited wearings - sometimes just once.  This is the one that she was wowed by, and I have always loved this dress, in all its 90's glory. 
Navy party dress on me
I made this dress to wear to a wedding, of course,  Seems quite a theme with my fancy clothes.  This was one of the first garments I made in response to seeing a dress in a store and thinking "I could make that".  It was a dress from I.Magnin, a store I miss to this day. Described as a "San Francisco, CA based hi-fashion and luxury goods department store with roots going back to 1876" it was sad when it disappeared but I have many memories of shopping there with my mom and sister.  The dress I saw there was solid navy blue but otherwise exactly the same as what I eventually made.  I think the price tag was about $ 200 which was an enormous sum to me at the time, just starting my career and not having a lot of money to fling at a party dress. 
This was in the pre-cell phone camera era so I went back to the store twice to try it on and the second time I took my measuring tape to note some details, such as the width of the binding and the specifics on this surprising detail:
Navy party dress back full view
The bow !   and the cutout.  Looking at it now I am kind of amazed that I pulled this off, and got it to fit so well.  I can't remember at all how I did it.  We are talking 1990 so 22 years ago, eek.  I takes up a bit of space so why it is still hanging in my closet I cannot explain, except that I love it and have such good memories of wearing it.  Confession time - I wore it twice. So not exactly a one-hit wonder but the amount time it took to make it versus the wearings puts it into the category.
How about some details? The upper half is a basic bodice, with a drop waist. I think I took a plain sheath dress pattern and used that to make the bodice, fitting it very snugly so that the cutout in the back would stay flat.  The fabric is cotton sateen, and the binding is packaged double fold seam binding. I think I bought the fabric at Britex. I lined the entire bodice in navy blue cotton and then finished all the edges using the white binding, stitching it on the right side and then turning it and hand stitching on the inside, which took a lot of time.  I was so proud of myself as I mitered the inside corners on that back cutout, after a bit of practice on scraps. The neckline fastens at the top back with a hook and some added snaps for security.  I made sleeve heads of net to maintain the proper poof in the sleeves.  

       Navy party dress front close upBack opening

Under the bow is a center back zipper so the dress is quite easy to wear.  The bow is stitched to the dress on one side and then has snaps on the other side.  It is not a tied bow so if you turn it over you can see it is the loops and tails all stitched in place firmly to stay perfect.

Bow close up
Oh yeah, that waist is tiny!   Not exactly my size today.  I couldn't quite zip it for the first photo but all in all I am pretty happy I can still get into it (mostly).

More fluff underneath.  The skirt lining is bright fuschia and then on top of the lining I attached some hot pink tulle, but that wasn't quite enough so I added the lighter pink netting which has a bit more oomph and give that full skirt look I was going for.  For the last detail I used horsehair braid in the skirt hem, first sewing that in by machine since the stitching would be covered by the white binding.  I think that gave the skirt the proper shape and showed off the fabric. 

Navy party dress hem and tulle
I wish I could find a photo of me wearing this at the time but so far no luck.  This is the one-hit wonder that will stay in my collection, too many good memories to ever part with it.  Although I would like a cute summer skirt in that fabric.  But don't fear, I won't be repurposing this anytime.  
Navy party dress side view

Here are links to my other One-Hit-Wonder posts, first: a wearable winner, second; an epic fail, and third: reworked and just right.  I sound like Goldilocks don't I?

My Vogue 1143 suit is finished, hurrah.  Photos and blog posts soon, many thoughts on that pattern so that will be up next. 

Here is my SunnyGal Garden photo, my dahlias were very late this year and so I have blooms now, this year I think I will take the plunge and order some of the very showy ones online.  I really like these bi-color ones. Now I just have to find a space for them in the spring.
Happy Sewing, Beth



  1. Adorable, love the style! I'll bet you got a lot of compliments!

  2. ohmygosh you look absolutely adorable in this dress! It's worth keeping in your closet, and I hope you find another reason to wear it! With the right accessories, I think you could span several decades of theme parties in this dress, or you could even be the belle of the balle at a modern fancy dress garden party!

  3. Even if you can't quite do up the zip, your waist still looks tiny! Have you lost more weight? I absolutely love the details of this dress and am in awe at the quality of the make and that you drafted it yourself. I didn't even realise there was net in the shoulders and under the skirt! Such a magnificent achievement. You must never, ever throw this out! Loved reading the story behind it. I can't believe you're still getting dahlias. I should move to California!

  4. Loving this look backward! Great dress, Beth.

  5. This is 90s-tastic! Well done for making this from memory and with such lovely details. Total sewing win!

  6. Whoa. What a mammoth task this dress was. Great detailing.

  7. oh wow, i love the full skirt and that open back is amazing!!!

  8. Gorgeous dress, Beth!

    Ahhh! I.Magnin brings back so many memories! I grew up in Los Angeles, so shopped at I.Magnin Wilshire, and later in Palm Springs, with a couple of visits to the San Francisco flagship store. I had one dress from I.Magnin and two from Joseph Magnin as a very young adult in the early 70s. I'm guessing they were on sale, or I never could have afforded them!


  9. Beth I am new to your blog (reached via Pattern Review as are so many). Your revisiting of patterns from the 90s and 00's in an earlier blog rang a bell - I too have a collection of Vogues from that period, many of which, though not of the minute are still superb designs. The smaller number I have from the others in the Big 4 just don't seem to have travelled as well. The dress above is beautifully executed and it would be criminal to discard it. I hope my skills reach yours one day.

  10. A gorgeous dress from that era. It also reminded me of the silk tweed jackets I have in my cedar closet, made back in the late 80's and early 90s. All boxy styling and shoulder pads extraordinaire. Love the fabrics so much I can't let them go, yet. I really need to. How did you convince yourself to do that?

  11. What an adorable dress! I'm glad it will remain intact in your closet!

  12. Oh it is absolutely lovely! The bow at the back, the cut-out, the crinoline.... I hope you never ever ever "re-purpose" this beauty!

  13. I really love this dress with all its pretty details :-) and I'm very glad to hear you have no plans to repurpose it - it definitely deserves keeping as is!