Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Little Black Laurel Dress

The first completed garment I've got to share with you in 2015 is actual one of my final projects of 2014. It racked up a fair few wears in those last few weeks of 2014 too! They don't lie when they say having a classic little black dress in your wardrobe will save your bacon for any occasion; this dress worked perfectly for pre Christmas cocktails, pub drinks, lunches and even an afternoon tea!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Little Black Colette Laurel Dress in Mood Fabrics Wool Sateen

Ever since making my polka dot version of the Laurel blouse from Colette Patterns I'd had a plain black version of the dress variation on my mind. I'd had such success with the style and fit of the blouse on me that I'd been dreaming about it in all kinds of fabrics and variations to be honest! For this dress I used this gorgeous wool sateen from Mood Fabrics and only needed just over a metre. It's kind of like a fairly lightweight suiting with a small amount of stretch, I bet it would make a lovely pair of trousers. It's hand is very smooth and it was lovely to sew with. I pre washed it on a gentle cycle in the machine as I was hoping this would be a big success and I'd want to be able to easily and regularly wash it. Then I gave it a good steamy press and it came up beautifully. It didn't need any other special treatment and I finished all the seams on my overlocker.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Little Black Colette Laurel Dress in Mood Fabrics Wool Sateen

I dove straight in and cut the size 2 as I had done with the blouse, presuming that it was drafted exactly the same. Spoiler alert, they're not! If you lay the front blouse piece onto of the front dress piece you'll see that the main difference is in the shape of the armhole. On the blouse pattern piece the armsyce dips inward quite dramatically just above the bust which seems a little odd to me and incidentally my blouse is slightly tight across the chest at this height. The dress pattern piece doesn't dip in in the same way and the armhole shape looks much more normal so I didn't make my planned alteration of adding some width in this area. The fit turned out fairly well but I do have a couple of small wrinkles here which I think indicate that I need a little more room across the lower bust next time. I think the bust points could also do with being lowered a tiny bit.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Little Black Colette Laurel Dress in Mood Fabrics Wool Sateen

Once the basic shift was assembled and before the sleeves were set in I popped it on to assess the fit. To be honest it felt like a bit of a tent and not the flattering, figure skimming shift I imaged. Comparing the pattern pieces the width of the dress and blouse are very similar but I think the blouse still feels flattering with this much ease because of the shorter length and the fact that you are not hiding any of your shape below the waist. A bit of pinching and pinning later, I decided that it could be salvaged by taking it in down the side seams. I took out 1" on the double from each side seam from the waist to hem and graded out to nothing at the underarm as I didn't want to loose any ease across the bust. That's 4" in total that I removed from below the waist!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Little Black Colette Laurel Dress in Mood Fabrics Wool Sateen

My rather makeshift fitting worked out pretty well as I love the shape of it now. I've transferred the alteration to the pattern pieces so I can copy it next time. However, it does tend to ride up a little/not fall back into place without a tug when I stand so I think I could do with a little more room around the bum. I'll probably take slightly less out of the side seams from just above the hip to the hem. The only other change I made was to take 1 1/2" off the length. I expected that I would need to as I'm fairly short and (after pinning the hem up at different heights and inspecting in the mirror) I found going as short as I dared made this silhouette work better for me. After a number of wears I feel like I got the length spot on as I feel comfortable sitting, standing and even going up and down the escalators from the tube! It's not really practical for work but I've got a lot of evening and weekend wear out of it as I say. I hemmed it with two turns of 1/2" before machine stitching.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Little Black Colette Laurel Dress in Mood Fabrics Wool Sateen

I omitted the zip in this as I knew from making the blouse that I could get it on and off without a fastening. Thankfully, partly due to the stretch in this sateen, this still worked once I had taken in the side seams! If making in a fabric with no stretch whatsoever I would need to include the zip now I have slimmed it down. You can see from the rear picture that I had some trouble setting in these sleeves and I'm not particularly happy with the final result but they are at least comfortable and wearable. I'm wondering if the issues I had with easing the sleeve heads in compared to blouse version were caused by the fact that the armholes are different shapes so the length the sleeve head has to be eased into is different? Despite my issues with the sleeve heads I do love this length of sleeve!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Little Black Colette Laurel Dress in Mood Fabrics Wool Sateen

I drafted my own facing for the neckline (as I did for the blouse) instead of using bias binding to finish it as recommended by the pattern. I don't often have much success with this technique and trying to get the binding to sit flat around this shape of neckline on my first version of Laurel was a total nightmare which I ended up giving up on. I still had some trouble getting the neckline to lay flat but clipping, under stitching and thoroughly pressing the edge sorted that out. I also caught the facing down with a few hand stitches at the centre front and back and shoulder seams to prevent it trying to flip to the outside.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Little Black Colette Laurel Dress in Mood Fabrics Wool Sateen

Despite the construction issues and tweaking of the fit that I still need to do on this pattern I'm delighted with this super wearable addition to my wardrobe! It dresses up or down with different shoes and I love it with a skinny belt too. Have any of you got any other pattern recommendations for a classic little black dress?

44 comments:

  1. Love, love, love this dress! The fit is very flattering on you. This will definitely be on my "To Sew" list now . . . also, nice to know I can omit the zipper if I use the correct fabric. (I'm not a zipper lover. LOL)

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    1. Haha! I don't mind them but if it's possible to avoid them I will! They can be quite time consuming.

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  2. I have found I have needed to tweak the Laurel quite a bit too.

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    1. That's good to hear! I think because of the simple shape the fit being even a little bit off really shows. I'd really like to get it just right and make another version

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  3. Great dress! Laurel is now added to my list!
    Claire xx

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    1. Thanks Claire! I hope you enjoy making it!

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  4. Funnily enough I'm sitting staring at my pattern getting ready to cut out today!
    Looks great on you!

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    1. O how fun! What fabric are you making it in? I hope you enjoy sewing it up!

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  5. What a perfect LBD on you. Never looked at this pattern before, but will definitely take a look now. Thanks for the inspiration :-)

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    1. You're welcome and thank you! It's such a simple design that I think it can be easily adapted to suit different personal style and fit preferences

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  6. Wonderful dress!! You'll be able to wear that thing over and over until it falls apart! The fit is very flattering, though I can imagine it didn't feel so good with four additional inches of ease...

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    1. No indeed it didn't! With that amount removed though it feels really lovely, not fitted but figure skimming. I made an effort to make this really well as I had a feeling that I'd want to wear it a lot!

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  7. Oh this is lovely Fiona! Ever since seeing Winnie's little black Laurel dress I've been thinking I need a LBD of my own, Sadly, I'm far too curvy for the Laurel but I've been drafting a simple princess seamed bodice and straight skirt which I'm hoping will turn out well. Great inspiration, thanks! x

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    1. O I had forgotten about Winnie's lovely Laurel! That must have been where the idea found it's way into my brain! Your self drafted pattern sounds lovely Jane, I hope you end up very happy with it!

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  8. This is so lovely and classic! I bet you'll be wearing it for years! My wardrobe is missing a LBD... I gotta get on that!

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    1. Yes! I bet this style would really suit you in black Sonja!

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  9. Just lovely! Its made me realize I need some LBD's of my own!

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    1. I can see you rocking a little black dress Nicole! Thanks!

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  10. Soo cute, reminds me of Audrey Hepburn. I love the quarter length sleeves, and that's super nice you can get it on and off without a zipper! I love dresses like that, anything to make my life simpler. ha great job Fiona.

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    1. Ok...'reminds me of Audrey Hepburn' is pretty much the best thing you could have said as I love that classic look! Thanks Haylee! I feel exactly the same about the zip situation, this is so great to just pull on and off and have your outfit done in one!

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  11. So lovely Fiona! It looks really great on you. Well done with the tweaking. I really like that fabric! (Note to self on wool satin, haven't even heard of that one before!)

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    1. Neither had I! I was really intrigued when I saw it on the Mood website. It's kind of like a fine wool suiting but with the sheen of a sateen. I still feel like there's a lot of tweaking yet to do with this pattern but am pretty pleased with it as it is!

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  12. Great job this looks great on you. Thanks for the reminder to make a LBD. I made a laurel top a while back I had an issue with the sleeves. There was too much excess at the back, I ended up skimming some fabric off the sleeve. Good to know it's a different sleeve for the dress as I'll probably toile it now.

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    1. That is very reassuring to hear about the sleeves! I think I'll probably skim a little off the sleeve head like you say next time, hopefully that will make them a little easier to ease in

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  13. What a beautiful classic! Very chic and the fitting tweaks make it much more sleek in silhouette - beautiful!

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    1. Thanks Vicki Kate! I still want to do some more tweaking with the fit but it's a hundred times better than it was already!

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  14. I think of your style as classy, and this is no exception. Lovely dress. I would love to buy from Mood but worried about import duty, did you have to pay this?

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    1. O thank you so much Mags! There are sometimes import duties, I've found there to be no real logic to when it gets caught in customs and when it doesn't. My smaller orders seem to have gone more smoothly but I don't think that's a guarantee. Customs charges confuse me if I'm honest!

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  15. This is fab. Love your interpretation of this pattern xxx

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    1. Thanks so much! Slimming it down and keeping it plain really worked out well for me

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  16. Love! So classic and cool at the same time. To be honest, I think I prefer it without the belt if you don't mind me saying so - even though it's still cute. It would also look fab with tall black boots, I'm sure. I cut my Laurels (two tana lawn summer ones) with the back on the fold after discovering my muslin could go over my head - bliss!
    you probably know this, at your level of sewing, but just in case, have you tried ironing your bias into shape? I used to have problems with bias until I saw this tip - you steam it into the shape of the curve and then it goes on so much easier:)

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    1. I absolutely don't mind you saying so! I feel more comfortable in it without the belt to be honest. I'd love to own a lovely long pair of black suede boots to wear with it, great idea!
      I have had some success using binding to finish armholes, like on the Alder shirtdress, by using a lot of steam but for some reason I've found the shape of this neckline so tricky to work with! The curve at the shoulder seams is pretty tight! I think maybe on my next Laurel I'll go back and attempt to the binding again - with LOADS of steam!

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  17. The perfect classic dress - this looks so great on you, and I'm not surprised at how much use you have had out of it already.
    It seems really strange that the armsyce for the blouse piece and the dress piece are different - I would just have assumed that they would have been the same piece, but the dress is cut longer. I've made a couple of Laurel dresses and have had issues fitting the sleeves with both. The second time I just decided to add a pleat at the shoulder and call it a 'feature'!

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    1. I know, I was so confused when I compared the two pattern pieces and saw how different they were! If anything I expected the difference to be in the amount of ease around the waist and hips but definitely not the armholes!
      It's very reassuring to hear that you also had some trouble with the sleeves, I might try changing the size/shape of the sleeve head next time to reduce the amount of ease!

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  18. That's so strange that the dress & top were drafted differently? A LBD is an element I'm hoping to add to my wardrobe very, very soon, and your beautiful Laurel is very inspiring!

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    1. I've been really thinking it over and I still can't fathom the reason behind drafting the armholes differently! Can't wait to see your little black dress!

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  19. What a fabulous dress! It's classic, and you look lovely in it :)

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    1. Thanks Alice! It feels like a very worthwhile addition to my wardrobe!

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  20. Ohhh wow that's so chic!! I love this dress

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    1. Thank you! You can never have too many simple little black dresses can you?!

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  21. It looks absolutely lovely. You can't go wrong with a wardrobe staple like that. When I made a Laurel last year, I did the same alteration to take some fabric out of the side seams from waist to hem as the shift silhouette seemed a little wide to me.

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    1. That's good to hear thank you! It's an unusual silhouette for me anyway so it feels a lot more comfortable skimming the body like this

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I love hearing from readers of my blog so please feel free to leave a comment letting me know what you thought about this post/make! Any hints or tips to improve my sewing are always much appreciated too!