05 Jul 2014 • • by Heather Lou

Vintage Pattern Rage

I initially started sewing so I could reproduce vintage clothing. I bought dozens and dozens of vintage patterns, and made a few garments using instructions that almost broke my brain.

Are you new to the wonderful world of sewing? A word of friendly advice - vintage patterns may not be the best way to learn how to sew. The damn things are lovely to look at but can drive even the more experienced among us ABSOLUTELY MAD. We like to complain about the instructions of new Big 4 offerings, but some of the instructions I've encountered in older patterns are borderline sadistic.

Case in point: I have ebay and etsy stalked this stunning vintage 70's Emmanual Ungaro Vogue pattern for years.

I finally tracked it down in my size (uncut!) and it sat in my stash waiting for the perfect moment to make its debut. Since I don't get a chance to wear eveningwear very often (oh how I suffer), it wasn't until a friend's upcoming wedding that I decided to break the seal. I ordered 8 yards of this gorgeous feather crepe from Girl Charlee and decided to halt production on the latest Closet Core pattern to make myself a piece of beautiful, indulgent frosting.

Until I started making the damned thing. You probably heard my swearing, no matter what part of the world you live in. I suspect the instructions were written by a 70's misanthrope who was silently rejoicing in the inevitable heartache and headache encountered by anyone trying to make this dress. So vague, so confusing. Written instructions didn't correspond with illustrations and the construction was an illogical mess. I spent hours tracing it and cutting it out, and quickly realised as I started assembling it that it was destined for my UFO pile. Which I don't have. Because I always make it work. But this? Disaster.

pattern fail

To be fair, part of the problem is that the bust needed to be lined, and I wanted to remove the floating scarves from the halter pieces. I just didn't have the time to figure out how to modify the bust pieces and avoid side boob gappage; I was hoping for a quick project and realized half way in I was basically sewing a dress using half-assed couture instructions on an impossible schedule. It really made me appreciate all the indie sewing I've been doing lately. Instructions are so well explained and diagrammed; worst case scenario you can always check out other blogs or contact the designer if you're stuck. It's not like I can call Emmanuel Ungaro in Italy and ask him why his waistband construction is so deranged, or why the side seams ended up over my butt.

So I was especially enraged when I turned to the internet for help and learned Vogue reproduced the same pattern a few years ago, except modifying it so it apparently made sense to everyone using it.

They changed all the tiny pleats I laboured over into gathers, and added lining pieces and variations that would have eliminated my pattern McGyvering with the straps. I would have saved myself a lot of time, energy and an Ebay bidding war if I had known...

So, my 70's feather maxi dress is dead for the time being. I'm going to wear my Sallie dress to the wedding instead, and track down the Vogue reissue so I can give it a try next year. Has anyone made Vogue 7521? Please pipe in about your experience with it!


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