Monday 28 November 2016

The Marchioness Rose

This dress has taken about six weeks from start to blogging. There's quite a few pieces to the pattern, I had to add a lining despite the pattern not originally being lined, and I've both been busy at work and moved house, so there was a lot to do both with the sewing and with the rest of life.

The pattern is a 1950s Australian Home Journal pattern, number 5210. It's a shirt dress with shawl collar and pockets. The envelope describes this as a house frock, which makes it sound like something Betty Draper would wear. The big bright pink roses also look very Betty, so I thought I should accessorise the photos to match the dress. And my armchair really matches the era pretty well, too!

The fabric is one I picked up at a Sydney Spoolettes fabric swap earlier in the year. The fabric is Australian, the selvedge says it is from Marchioness Fabrics. It's very thin voile, almost gauze-like. This meant there was no way I could use the fabric without lining it. But I didn't want to lose the soft drape that it has. I also didn't want to lose the colours, so I had to find something to be a lining that wouldn't show through or dilute the vibrant pinks of the roses.

I found a baby pink cotton voile at The Fabric Store that fit the bill. Of course, two layers of voile still isn't particularly thick. For the bodice it was fine, and I decided to leave the sleeves unlined, but the skirt would need more than two layers of voile. To fix this, I decided to double line the skirt. I cut one set of the baby pink voile to be the lining, and another set which I stitched straight on to the main fabric, treating it all as one single piece.

I started work on the bodice first, putting in the front and back darts. There are also front insets at the yoke. They were a little daunting to insert because of the right angle at the bottom edge, but in the end they went in fairly easily. And the print is, well, a bit overwhelming so the insets aren't really noticeable - you can just see the line of them on the above photo if you look closely. On the pattern envelope the insets are edged with lace so they stand out, but that wasn't needed with this fabric.

The skirt was trickier to do because of the third layer of fabric. Although I stitched the second layer of pink voile onto my main fabric so I could treat it as one, it was still a bit slippy. I left the bottom hem until I'd attached the bodice and skirt together, and then left it to hang for a weekend so the hem would settle. It seems to have ended up even, but I will keep an eye on it in case the lining and skirt get out of alignment.

Being a shirt dress I needed to make sure to stabilise the front. But I wanted to make sure I chose an interfacing that would work with how light the fabric is - both in terms of the weight and the gauziness of it. In the end I chose a black net-like sew-in interfacing. It did mean I had to first stitch the interfacing to the facing, but it sits and flows better than an iron on interfacing would.

The original pattern had short sleeves, but I didn't think they were quite right for this fabric. I looked through my other patterns from around the same era, and decided I'd add the sleeves from my DuBarry 5265 coat dress pattern. The sleeves are meant to have cuffs, but I tried the dress on before adding the cuffs and decided they'd be a bit too overwhelming, and the sleeves would work fine it I simply hemmed them.

I actually had all the sewing done more than a week before I moved, as I needed to be able to pack up my machine and fabric. All that was left to do was rip open the buttonholes, add the buttons, and hid all the loose threads. Still, I had to get set up before I could even start on those last elements, and there are sixteen buttons on this shirt dress. The interfacing is also relatively solid but the fabric is light, so I wanted to be very careful when ripping the buttonholes open.

The buttons were probably the hardest choice in making this dress, because I didn't know what would suit this fabric. It obviously needed a large number of buttons (sixteen in the end!), but what would complement the flowers? I have a large collection of buttons, but I didn't have anything that worked, or that had enough buttons. I wasn't going to find something that faded in to the background on this fabric, so I chose the gold as I thought they would stand out but not clash.

I'm really proud of this dress. To be honest it feels a little fancier than I normally am, like it needs a very put-together person. Not simply something that is pulled out of the wardrobe on a whim. But the fabric is just so stunning, and so perfectly suited to the pattern, so I'm sure I will find reasons to wear it. Although probably without the heels.


  1. Perfect fabric-pattern match. I'm intrigued by Australian Home Journal patterns, so I'm glad you shared this. You look like you could have stepped out of the pages of that magazine!

    1. Wow, thanks! I have two other home journal patterns, but haven't seen much of the magazine. They seem to be hard to come by!

  2. What a gorgeous dress! The fabric is so beautiful! I love the silhouette and the shape of the sleeve you used is perfect! Love your photos-that chair is just fab!

    1. Thanks, I love how the sleeves turned out, and I do love the chair - it's a little ridiculous but so comfy and awesome.