Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Geisha Faces Duster - Vogue 1356

I purchased this unique fabric locally. This two-toned (natural and marine blue) 100% linen features giant pointillist Geisha faces. It is woven using a coarse linen thread so the fabric is fairly heavy but has a nice drape - the texture reminds me a bit of burlap, but in linen.

After a trip through the washer and dryer on the hot setting, I decided to use the fabric to sew up Sandra Betzina's new duster pattern. This pattern has some interesting features:

  • Large front and back pieces, uninterrupted by seams, to showcase the large scale print.
  • The pattern says that the duster is "very loose fitting", but it is actually fairly fitted through the upper torso. There are two fish eye darts in the back, which I omitted. There is a small bust dart, and the side seams nip in above the waist. The duster is very loose fitting through the waist and hips.
  • The sleeves are two-piece sleeves, cut on the bias.
  • The front placket is also cut on the bias.
  • The optional patch pocket is actually two pockets each: the larger pocket sits on top and a bit lower than the smaller pocket, which peeps out.
  • The duster has an a-line shape. There are side slits, which I raised by about 3".

Fit and Sizing

I decided to use a size C, given my upper bust measurement. According to the pattern tissue, a size C is 41.5" (finished) at the bust. I measured the pattern tissue and this number didn't seem to be correct. I did a 1" FBA (adding 2" in width), and also cut out the side seams at a size D, but all the other seams and hems, I cut out as a size C.

The duster is unlined, but it has large facings. The facings extend to the armhole. Because of the FBA, the shape of the pattern near the front armhole was affected. I laid the front facing on top of the front, and transferred the new shape to the front facing.

Front facing pattern alteration
Back FACE-ing

Sleeves and Shoulders

I narrowed the shoulders by 1". I pinned the 2-pc sleeve pattern and tried it on and it was fairly close fitting through the upper arm. I measured the pattern, and the number did not agree with the printed number on the pattern for the finished upper arm. I then measured the armscye of the sleeve and the armhole - the armhole was more than 2" larger. I measured both the paper pattern and the garment.

This puzzled me. I was not sure if I had made a mistake somewhere, but I did widen the upper sleeve (and the armscye seam) by 1". I didn't increase it by more, because the sleeve is on the bias, and I thought that maybe this was intentional.

When I went to set in the sleeve, it was difficult, because the sleeve was smaller than the opening. I found myself wishing I had increased the sleeve by another inch. If you make this duster, make sure to double check the fit of the sleeve and the width of the upper sleeve.

I also could see that the sleeve was much too long. I shortened it by 1-5/8" but the finished sleeve was still too long by another inch or so, so I am wearing them folded back.


This pattern calls for the front and back facings to be interfaced. It suggests that you clean finish the outer edge of the facings by sewing the interfacing to the facing, right sides together and along the outer edge, then flip the interfacing to the back side. The raw outer edge is encased. If you have used a fusible interfacing, you would then fuse it to the back side of the facing.

Do any of you ever use this technique? I tried this technique many years ago (in the early-to-mid 80s, so it's been awhile) and did not like the result. I did use a lovely fusible interfacing from Fashion Sewing Supply, but I fused it in the normal manner.

Seam Finishes

Since the duster is unlined, the seams do need to be neatly finished. The instructions use several techniques. One is the technique I describe above, where the raw outer edge of the facings are encased inside the facing/interfacing seam. For the side seams, the raw edges are folded under and top-stitched. Seam binding is attached to the sleeve hems and then they are top-stitched. The raw edge of the hem is turned to the inside and then machine stitched. The two seams in the sleeves are not finished. I suspect this is because it would be hard to top-stitch both seams, and, as they are on the bias, they will not ravel.

For the most part, I did it differently, except for the side seams, which I did turn under and top-stitch. I used double fold bias binding (in two widths) throughout the garment, including the sleeves. I forgot how much binding you need for this approach! I ran out of bias binding twice and had to get more. (Thanks so much to Patti F who sent me the last package of bias binding I needed!)


The edges of the duster meet at center front. A placket with 5 snaps closes the duster. The pattern suggests that you can omit the placket (and wear it open), or replace the placket with a zipper. But something that did not make sense to me is that the placket and the placket lining, which are simple rectangles, are both cut on the bias. This strikes me as strange, since it would be very easy for it to distort with wear. I did go ahead and cut it out on the bias, but I am concerned that it will give me problems down the road. I made sure to fuse the placket with interfacing that was cut in a stable direction, and hopefully this will be sufficient.

But I do not understand why the placket is cut on the bias. It seems unnecessary and potentially problematic.

The snaps I used are size 24 snaps, from Snap Source, in Antique Brass and applied with a hammer, using the Snap Source tool. (I love Snap Source snaps!)


The patch pockets on this duster are very cute. They are simple rectangles, but the smaller rectangle is first sewn on, then a larger pocket is sewn on top, and a little below, so the smaller pocket peeps out the top of the larger pocket.

I made a few changes. First, because of the nature of the print, I decided to put one set of pockets on the left side only. I wanted to fussy cut the outer pocket to feature the Geisha's face, so I enlarged both the under and upper pocket, by 2" in width and 2" in height. The pattern suggests that you fold in each bottom corner of the pocket and then fold in the two long edges of the corner, but this seems, to me, to be the way to achieve a lumpy finish.

Instead, I mitered the lower corners of the pockets, which results in a much cleaner finish. The pattern also suggests that you use Steam a Seam (or equivalent) to hold the seam allowances in place and also to place the pockets on the garment, but I did not find either step to be necessary.

Worn with my Trippens, which I call my "German Geisha" shoes!


I really like this duster! Partly because of the fun fabric, but I also like the design. Before I cut out the fabric, I considered changing the silhouette. I almost narrowed the a-line shaping to make it more column-shaped. I know that is a good look for me, but I decided to leave it as-is, only raising the side slits to give it more ease of movement. I like that it's semi fitted through the upper torso, nipped in at the waist, and loose and flowing below. It's fun to wear and, I think, a flattering look.