Friday, August 10, 2012

Vogue 1317 - Sleeping with Ralph Chado Rucci

When this Ralph Chado Rucci pattern came out at the end of July, I was smitten. Where most saw an awesome dress, I saw an awesome bathrobe!

If you recollect, I have discussed my bathrobe woes at length. While I wear, and enjoy, my Russian Princess robe, I felt that my bathrobe needs were not completed sated.

Russian Princess robe

The best bathrobe I ever purchased was from the J.Jill catalog maybe 15 years ago. What made it superior to other robes, is that it had a fitted waist inset in the back, similar to the one in Ralph's dress. That is the feature that attracted me most to this pattern, though I also love the interesting seaming.

I used a French Terry purchased from Fashion Fabric club over a year ago, when I was obsessed with the idea of the perfect robe and bought too many robe fabrics. This is a very nice, very soft, mid-weight French Terry. The pattern calls for double top-stitching on every seam. The French Terry didn't react well to this treatment, and rippled on every seam. I was able to press out the worst of it, but this was not the best seam treatment for this fabric.

For the closure, I used jumbo snaps. But I wanted to break up the front with visible buttons, so I raided my button box and found some black buttons inherited from grandma. These were rather beat up, with threads still attached from whatever coat she rescued these from, but they worked and I was able to use all 5!

Alterations and Modifications:

I started with a size 24.
  • Eliminated the back zipper.
  • Reshaped the seam at the shoulder and upper sleeve - the shoulder "bump" was at the wrong location.
  • Eliminated the waist tie. Note that if I had a small waist, I would have kept the tie, but a tie-front robe does not function well for my figure. See my post on this subject, with photos.
  • Lengthened 13" to full length.
  • Eliminated the front skirt overlay, which is used for the pockets. Instead, placed the pockets in the side seam.
  • Converted to a front button opening, including creating a front facing.
  • FBA, adding 3" to the width and 2" to the length.
  • Shortened sleeves?

Detailed info on alterations:

Full Bust Adjustment

Just last week I mentioned that I am a fan of underarm gussets - the busty woman's friend. Coincidentally, this design features an underarm gusset. This is a very unusual gusset, which extends into the back and causes a graceful, curved seam that ends in the back yoke. But it is still a gusset.

I received my pattern last Friday and I spent Friday evening trying to a) study and understand the gusset and b) figure out how to alter it. You see, the whole point of a gusset is to add fabric to enable ease of movement. When you have a gusset, you shouldn't need a bust dart. I wanted to figure out how to modify the gusset so I could avoid a dart. Adding a dart to this design is a bit of a kludge.

I finally realized how it could be accomplished and I'm going to show you what I did.

First I had to select the size to start with. The largest size this pattern comes in is a 24. The 24 has a finished bust measurement of 48.5" and a finished waist of 42". I decided to use this size, but I still needed to add 3" to the bust. The waist was fine without modification.

I traced the gusset off in a size 24 and annotated each edge of the gusset so I could mull it over:

Here's what I came up with:

Start by marking your bust level on the gusset piece. Note that I used the plus-inside-of-a-circle notation, but this is a bit misleading. This mark only indicates the level of the bust, not the actual bust apex.

To add width to accommodate a larger bust, slice from the tip of the sleeve down to the waist, creating a tiny hinge at the circle. Spread the appropriate amount at the bust level. In my case, I spread 1.5" at the bust level, for a total addition of 3".

Note that this creates extra width at the bottom of the gusset. This will be dealt with when sewing this seam to the upper yoke. In my case, I created a tuck under the bust. Gathers or a dart would have also worked. Note that the precise location of the tuck/gathers/dart will be under the bust, not in the gusset. It's best to put the garment on the body and mark this point. (If you are spreading only a small amount, you can most likely ease the fullness in.)

Add paper to fill in the gap and tape it in place. I also needed additional length to go up and over the bust. I wanted to add length to the front of the gusset, but not to the back of the gusset:

Draw a curved line parallel to the bottom of the gusset, and about 1.5" from the bottom edge.

Slice along the line, creating a hinge 5/8" in from the back edge.

Pivoting from the hinge, swing the bottom down the amount desired. I used 2" based on the tissue fit of the pattern. Insert paper to fill in the gap and tape it in place. Use a ruler on the front and back edges of the gusset to true them up. (Shown in the previous picture.)

Restore the straight edge to the bottom front edge of the gusset. You can see the straight line drawn in, in the following picture.

Cut off the excess along the straight line. The front pattern piece must now be lengthened to match the corresponding seam on the front gusset.

That is all the needs to be done for the FBA, however I also converted the pattern to a button front. The CF of the bodice had a seam, so I extended it by 1-1/8". The front yoke and front skirt were originally cut on the fold, so I extended those by 1-3/4". The following picture shows the final alterations to the front and front yoke:

Lengthening the Bodice

I want to point something out for those who need to lengthen or shorten this pattern through the torso. Vogue has provided horizontal lines on the front and back yoke for lengthening or shortening. There are no lines provided for lengthening or shortening in the bodice itself. (See the previous photo to see the lengthen line in the yoke.)

If you have a long waist, lengthening along this line might work for you. But if you do not have a long waist, lengthening the yoke could be problematic. Even shortening the length is problematic; as the yoke is narrow in front, there is not much room for shortening.

I recommend that you lengthen the bodice using a technique similar to the one I used for the FBA, but carrying it through the entire gusset and through the back bodice.


  • Doing an FBA in a bathrobe is a bit problematic for me. Do I locate the bust apex based on their location when wearing a bra? Or sans bra? The problem is, I don't plan to wear a bra when wearing the robe. But I don't really want to locate the bust apex at belly button level, either. I try to find a happy compromise but, in this case, I don't love the result. If you look at the photo where I am standing still, it's obvious that the robe is too long for the torso. I refuse to show a picture sans bra, because you would see a very different effect then, where my bust falls into the waistband. Meh. If I were to make this again, I think I would eliminate the waistband in front, while keeping it in back
  • I like how the front gently curves from the bust up to the shoulder, so that there is no overlap. I really like this effect.
  • Double rows of top-stitching was a very bad idea on this fabric. It caused ripples galore, which I minimized with pressing and avoiding pulling on the fabric as I sewed, but could not entirely eliminate. I can live with it in a soft, yummy bathrobe, but I won't be taking this to a show and tell anytime soon.

So, while this was a useful exercise, it was not the most successful garment. I could see playing with it further, though. I think the design has lots of possibilities. For example, if I try this again, I would play with the gusset shape, especially in front, and move the slash point in, closer to the actual hinge of my underarm. That would give me a better range of motion. I love how the gusset extends into the back and would preserve that detail.

So, be kind. I almost did not blog this effort, but thought the gusset discussion might be useful.

More Pictures