Monday, October 25, 2010

Vogue 1210 - Sandra Betzina dress

When I reviewed the recent batch of Vogue patterns, I pretty much wrote this Sandra Betzina dress off as "not for my figure." Fast forward to Artistry in Fashion, an event benefiting the fashion design program at Canada College and featuring Sandra herself, who spoke and presented a fashion show of her designs. Students from Canada's fashion program modeled Sandra's garments and the same dress from the pattern cover was presented, but it was worn with the ties hanging down, rather than tied under the bust. It was lovely on the student model and I realized that it might work for me.

It wouldn't be fabulous on me, mind you, because it would hang from the bust and completely hide my hips/legs, but, hey... Variety is the spice of life, and all. :)

Several months ago I bought this border print fabric from FabricMart (no longer available). Well, it's not exactly a border print. It is a polka dot print, but the dots are small on one selvedge and grow larger towards the other selvedge. The fabric is wide (maybe 60") and I needed a long garment to show it off. A top or pants wouldn't satisfy my desire to use the entire print.

Yes, that's right. My first dress. gulp

I first considered Vogue 8659, but decided I didn't want to interrupt the print with that curved hem. Sandra's design is reminiscent of that pattern, but is cut almost straight across at the hemline.

This fabric is a 4-way polyester ITY knit. I don't particularly like to sew or wear ITY, or slinky, knits, because I find them to be hot and they tend to hug (rather than skim) my lumps and bumps, but I was completely seduced by this beautiful polka dot print.

This fabric has most of its stretch in the lengthwise grain. I cut it on the crosswise grain, which is more stable, but I had no choice if I wanted the dots to grow larger as they approached the hem. Meaning that the stretch goes up and down the body, rather than around the body, which is how you would usually want it. Having the stretch go vertically is rather strange, but, wow, the dress sure does swing and flow, and when I jump up and down, the dress actually bounces. After I bought this fabric from FM, I later saw it on Marcy Tilton's site, so, between the two sites, there must be lots of us who now have this in our stash. :)


  • Polka dot ITY knit from FabricMart.
  • Black mesh (for contrast) from Fabrix.
  • 1/2" Steam A Seam 2 (for hems)
  • 1/4" twill tape (to stabilize neckline)

Alterations & Modifications:

  • I cut out a size F, which was 4" too small in the bust. (This pattern allows for 1/2" finished ease in the bust, at least in the sizes I was looking at.) Instead of a traditional FBA, I just added 1" to the side seam at the bust and tapered it out after a few inches. I had to do this on the front and back side seam, and the front and back underarm sleeve seam - four pattern pieces were affected, in all. The side seams are sewn last so I knew I could take out what I needed - every knit has different stretch and you should tweak the fit here anyway. This approach worked well for this garment.

    Sleeve with added bit for FBA.

  • During construction, I removed 1/2" from the shoulder seams, before attaching sleeves.
  • As recommended in the pattern, I doubled the mesh for the sleeve insert.
  • I did not shorten the sleeves. This is very unusual for me, so I suspect that the sleeves are on the short side.
  • After the dress was finished, I shortened it 2". They recommend that you lengthen or shorten at the hemline, so this worked well.
  • After sewing the side seams, I tweaked the fit by removing 1/2 from the side seam, just under the bust - a 2" reduction in all.

This pattern was fairly easy to construct, with a couple caveats. The trickiest part is the neckline. Despite stabilizing the neckline with twill tape, once I had attached the contrast mesh band, it was far too baggy. Sandra recommends that you block the neckline, using steam, to encourage the band to hug the body, but there was no way any amount of steam would have fixed the floppy neck band.

Stabilizing the neckline with twill tape

After mulling it over for a bit, I decided that it was time to use a Marcy Tilton technique I had never used before. It felt right to combine their work, since Marcy and Sandra have been great friends for years. :) Marcy often creates outside tucks on her neckbands, which you can see on Vogue 8636. I'm not sure if I used the exact same technique as she uses, but I pinned in a number of tucks and started sewing. I kept adding tucks, without measuring, until the neckline fit the way I wanted it to fit. In the end, I added 18 tiny tucks.

Baby "Marcy" tucks!

Finished neckline. Photo lightened to show detail.

In order to reinforce the idea that these tucks were intentional, I also added tucks to the sleeve inset. They are hard to photograph, and very subtle, but they are there.

It's subtle, but there are 6 tucks spread across the length of the sleeve inset.

What do I think about this pattern? To be honest, I am not sure. It reminds me a bit of loungewear. Something I might wear before dinner when my friends drop by for cocktails. Wait, I don't do that. OK, I might wear it on the cruise ship apres swimming. Oops, not my lifestyle either. OK, how about I wear it when the doorbell rings and it's the neighbor reminding me to move the car because it's street cleaning day. Yup, that sounds more feasible. This knit is so heavy and drapey, and the print so dramatic, the great funky skirt shape is a bit lost, which is unfortunate.

When DD1 returned on Sunday afternoon, I put the dress on and styled it as I might wear it out. I nervously asked her what she thought and she really liked it and felt it was a rather dressed up look.

So, for me, the jury is out. I'm not sure if I will wear this out of the house, or to bed. What do you guys think?

Hangar shot

The shape of the dress

My knee fits perfectly into the corner!

Twirlability? Check.

Fashion DON'T. (I couldn't resist.) ;)



  1. Once again, you've shown the potential on a pattern I'd rejected. I think it's very wearable on you.

  2. I think you look adorable and I LOVE the polka dot fabric. I can see why you wouldn't have the ties - your "girls" would look enormous, but hey, nothing wrong with that either! Now find somewhere dressed-up to wear it to.

  3. You're gonna hate me but I like it with the ties around your bustline. It gives the eye a place to rest in a sea of print...and if God gave him to you work it! *LOL*

  4. I could never hate you, Carolyn. Worn under the bust... it's a look. ;)

  5. I think you should wear it, even if it's not a dress up occasion, just because you look like you're having so much fun in it.

  6. Love the use of the polka dot fabric. Actually like the ties under the best - gives definition. Whats it like with a belt, cinched, hip slung or soft fabric tied?

  7. I also like it with the ties under the bust!

  8. I think you could easily wear it out to an art museum or to brunch or something like that. Regarding the ties (and a priceless expression) -- while I don't really love the ties look, I do think that as it currently stands the dress hangs straight from your largest part, making you appear larger, and the ties give your body definition. So I guess I would consider some kind of beltish something. Maybe blouson and wear with sharp black boots.

    I really love your tuck solution and think you've made another really nice thing out of a very ordinary-looking pattern.

  9. Add another vote for the 'It looks pretty good with the bust ties' camp! It may look a little... boobilicious... in person, but it is very flattering in the photo!

  10. I love it either way. It's a hit! It is such a fun dress that there is no way you could be less than joyful, wearing it. I think if you were not mugging the camera (hehehehe) and making fun of the underbust ties, I'd have never thought to analyze that look. It looks just as good as the longer look. Terrific match of fabric and pattern too. Kudos!!!!

    As I have mentioned before, I think we should send your name in to PR. You can draft etc and your design ideas are so good. ;-)

  11. You've done a fabulous job with this lovely polka-dot fabric. The print on the dress turned out beautiful!
    And I adore the twirlability!!, no dress should be without, imo!
    And the "fashion don't", I think you should consider that a fashion DO!

  12. By all means, wear it out of the house! It looks great on you.

  13. This dress is so flattering on you! It caught my eye because of this. I like ties down because it echoes the black strip along the sleeves giving it a certain harmony.