April 20, 2011


I've been a little starry eyed about shift dresses lately. Probably because, as you know, I have seen several by now. I decided to save one for myself to try out. Enter the Vogue Valentino. I've been doing a fair amount of research on the shift dress too. Apparently, the shift dress was so christened not so much because you can "shift" around in it (though true), but more because of a shift in culture. A shift away from things that bind and suck you in. A letting loose so to speak. There's more to it than that, I'm sure. Another topic for another day. Back to the issue at hand, that means that the shift dress is or should be comfortable. That's very appealing to me. Especially now since, I do a lot of shifting about the house in my various capacities as a haberdasher, so having one of these isn't just about want, but need.
I've set my mind on a silk charmeuse, which I don't have a photo of, but you'll be seeing it quite a bit, I'm sure. Comfortable dress deserves comfortable fabric don't ya think? So, getting down to brass tacks, I went about doing up a muslin over the weekend. Oh yes, let's see, here it is:

Truly not bad. And what's even more surprising is that it doesn't look like a sack. In fact, it's actually rather stylish on my figure. Let's please disregard my somewhat provacative stance here. Come now, isn't muslin one of my better colors? I'm actually surprised you can see the dress, what with my skin being the same color and all. Anyway, so what do I need to fix? Well, the underbust is coming up too high by about an inch. In addition to having a long torso I have a fairly long neckline to bust measurement. Also, the under armholes are just a tad on the high side which is giving a little pull on the underarm and of course, the hips and the shoulders need a bit of a widening.

The construction of the dress was fairly simple, but there are some interesting things that I noted on several different shift dresses that passed through these hands. The placement of the zipper for one and how it's closed at the top is rather interesting here. The zipper on this dress is in the back in one of the princess seams. It closes at the top with a hook and eye closure. I'm not sure that I love this and I might end up changing it to the side because even getting this zipper on the muslin up and down was something of a trick. A trick that didn't really work, me not being a gymnast and all. Also, nearly all the patterns I sorted through were designer patterns and all of them called for an underlining. I have my own thoughts about why, but I thought I would let you ruminate a bit as to why that is.

And now a word about the length. This sucker gets a 3" hem according to the pattern. That will fall just above my knee. Now, is it just me or is the shift dress on the pattern envelope really quite a bit shorter? I mean the thing is at the mid-thigh. Strange, no? Anyway, I'm actually happy with the above the knee length. I might go a tad shorter for the next shift. We'll see. There is only so much shortness on a skirt or dress I can handle (for me, anyway). What do you think? Don't you need a shift dress now?




  1. I like the bust details & waist shaping on you :) I agree the bust needs to be lowered a bit by the 1" you yourself reckon it'll need. Will you take the 1" height off of the waist panel at the same time too, or will you lower the waist section down (and take the 1" off of the top of the skirt pieces) to balance it all out?
    P.S. That's the weirdest place I've seen to put a zipper (not that I'm an expert LOL!). Oh, and your shoulder width looks to be spot on already to me. And, if you change the zipper to the side will you still be able to get your head in/out of the neck opening okay (just a thought)?
    Re: hem length I think shorter would suit you better. At it's current length it is veering towards the style of a tea-dress (or rather a tea-dress where someone decided to save on fabric & loose a whole bunch of the fullness from the skirt portion).
    Claire :)
    P.S. Did you get my mega long email ok re: your survey earlier this week :)?

  2. Great pattern -the waist piece gives it a nice shape. I agree that the pattern images look much shorter- but I'm more comfortable with above-knee than mid-thigh myself (I like the option of being able to bend over and pick things up).

  3. I can see this dress with some red top stitching to make it pop. Or am I all wet with that idea?

  4. Gorgeous design - it really suits you. The placement of the zipper is really odd - but I do wonder if you will need to make the neck opening larger if you move the zipper to the side. Looking forward to seeing the finished product.

  5. I made three or four shift type dresses last year for summer and came to realize those 60's patterns ran very long. Even with the amount of hem they asked for I had to cut off some. The waist shaping on yours is nice -- it keeps it from being a bag.

  6. Cute! I've passed by that pattern several times, as I don't think the envelope photo is very nice. I would go with above the knee but not mid-thigh - that photo is so short! I agree that 60s patterns run very long.
    I've wondered about the underlining too. I know most dresses weren't lined, because women wore slips and such, so maybe they were underlined for stability without a lining? It also changes the feel of a fabric. I made an early 1970s dress once and underlined it - it gave the a-line that stiff look of dresses from that era (I think the dress on the envelope cover looks underlined to me!) though of course that depends on the fabric you use to underline.

  7. Um yes I do need a shift dress. Can't wait to see the final version, you find the best fabric.

  8. I must need a shift dress too because I've collected about half a dozen vintage patterns (some from you) just this spring. I am seriously confused as to what constitutes a "shift" though, because I recently saw an adorable dress on a celebrity (flaking on who?) that looked downright sheath-y, and they called it a shift. Huh.

  9. I always thought a shift hung from the shoulders with minimal shaping. It's too long ago for me to remember! ;>
    Anyway I like your dress whatever it's called.

  10. I think I need a shift dress if it's that one. ;) As much as I adore 60s fashion, I've come to the unfortunate conclusion that unfitted silhouettes look like maternity wear on me, and I'm nowhere near pregnant. So I like that this one has some waist shaping. And am now kind of tempted to bust out the 60s-replica Simplicity shift dress pattern I have that I decided I'll never be able to actually use (but still have), and give it a panel like this.
    That zipper placement is so odd...how would that even work, sewing a zipper in on a curved seam like a princess one? Maybe it makes more sense when looking at the instructions, or after having a little more tea to wake up my brain, but right now I can't wrap my head around it.

  11. The Vintage Vogue patterns are such gems - most of them are so unique and have great details. Like.... the zipper placement! I dunno, I kinda love it. It's such a unique feature - do you think you could make it work? I made a blouse that buttoned up the back last year. I thought it was unwieldy to button at first, but quickly got the hang of it.

  12. Wow, that is a stunning pattern and it's going to look fabulous on you! I think it would look great with a boatneck kind of neckline, too. Those high necklines on some 60s patterns look a bit restrictive to me, however it does look good on you.

  13. Definitely wear it a little longer. Do you really want to be infantilised? Is that a word!?

  14. This is a great pattern - I love the waist detail. Looking forward to seeing your finished dress.

  15. I love that dress and I agree; just above the knee is perfect!

  16. From Dictionary.com:
    shift - a. a straight, loose-fitting dress worn with or without a belt.
    b. a woman's chemise or slip.
    "Shift" meaning undergarment is first attested in 1598. Undergarments of the time were made using rectangular construction and minimal shaping.
    sheath - a close-fitting dress, skirt, or coat, especially an unbelted dress with a straight drape
    A sheath is a close-fitting case. As a type of clothing, "sheath" is first attested in 1904.

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