Tag Archives: Sense and Sensibility

Sense and Sensibility Ladies’ 1780 portrait dress

24 Jan
  • Pattern picture
  • Fabric/trims/notions used
Light floaty cotton voile for main garment; polyester chiffon for the sash; a bit of elastic for the waist
  • Piccie of finished garment

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  • Inspiration (for the garment)
The above pattern picture. I love the fresh simplicity of it.
  • Useful info
There is no length measurements or lengthen/shorten lines. This seems to be normal for Sense and Sensibility patterns, and as someone sadly short-waisted, it drives me nuts.
However, just to drive me more nuts, I didn’t adjust the back-neck-waist at all, and yet, this dress is short in the back. It is long in the front too. How confusing. My suggestion is because there is little-to-no shaping from below the bust down, cut both front and back with plenty of length to spare. Then cut the waist length after checking it on the person. Alternatively, you could do a muslin with just the bodice, the skirt is so simple it doesn’t need one unless you really want to get a specific effect of fullness or lack of fullness.
(This dress was my muslin! I am into Wearable Muslins 🙂
The extra gathering at the front in this style is not necessary. Only a small amount – at most 5cm total at the front would be enough. So the effect is overly bouffy. More so than the picture suggests. However, it is rather nice, in a non-modern, non-showing the figure off kinda way. Comfy.
The “racer-back” style is really funky! And very comfortable too.
I simply put elastic into the waistband. Much easier and comfortable. If I made this dress again I would probably trial elastic in the neck too. I didn’t with this dress and it was quite hard to get the right amount of  gather around the neck. Elastic would be a LOT easier.
As you can see, I am not a Purist. I am sure those ladies in 1780s would have used elastic if they’d had it ;-P
Ok, only relevant to people in hot climates. The sash is HOT!!! And the voile was so light I needed a voile underskirt too. Thus this dress turned out as a wear around the home without sash and underskirt kinda dress. Or, with sash and underskirt, a Special Occasion where I will be in cold airconditioning most of the time kinda dress.
Previous posts:
  • Cost
Pattern: $15.95, postage $10
Fabric: 3m voile @ $8pm = $24
Elastic and thread from stash.
Underskirt cut from an op-shop find – $3
Total: $52.95. Heh, if I get my mental arithmetic wrong one day, feel free to correct me! (I will say here and now I am slightly dyslexic and it shows up most when working with numbers. Using a calculator instead of my own brain won’t fix that.)
  • Last word

This was a trial of a possible wedding dress. Well it did its job. I don’t like it!!! ARGH!!! I like the dress, ok, fine. Actually apart from the short back and long front bodice, it is really lovely to wear. So long as I am in airconditioning.

However, it is … froufrou. The skirt in particular. Wide and soft and floaty. And that is only in cotton voile. The thought of it in a slithery silk just … no. No no no.

I am seriously considering just getting married in a sack. I’ve discussed this with my fiancĂŠ and he said so long as I was legally covered up so didn’t get arrested and carted off mid-ceremony, he really doesn’t care what I wear.

Good thing we’ve not set a serious date yet. Could be a good few years yet before I work out what I want to wear.

Wedding dresses aside, this is a really nice dress!

My made June-ish

17 Jul

June is usually the coldest month here, and my warmer clothes are usually just op-shop finds to see me through an average of all of 3 weeks of cold weather. So I didn’t sign up for Me-Made June.

But this June turned out sooooo cold I had to dig out some of my southern travel clothes for their extra warmth. One old favourite is this blue velvet skirt. I found the skirt, a straight wrap-around in I think a size 8, (too small for me) in an op-shop in Darwin when I was 19. I made it into this straight skirt that buttons up at the side. (Gorgeous buttons. Mmmm!) The fabric was a tad worn and frayed in places when I found the skirt, and I do secretly love that. It has Character!

It turned out to be the perfect weight for the extra-cold weather. Yes yes, I really was barefoot even though it was freezing 😛 I wore this skirt so much that, especially on days I wore a top I had also made, like this one, I was doing a Me-Made June after all.

One day I will work out how to fit the back of my bodices so they don’t have all that extra fabric in them. I already take some length out of the waist. I have trialled taking some of that excess out of the shoulders/neck, without affecting the armscye. I think it is working. More on that in a later post when I am more confident of what I am doing.

The top is my “wearable muslin” of Sense and Sensibility’s swing era dress pattern, started when I optimistically joined Casey‘s Swing era dress sew-along earlier this year. I ‘fess, I went on holiday in the middle of the sew-along and never started the actual dress The muslin worked out just fine, however, so I finished it off as a top, (practised that crazy shoulder corner seam!) and it soon became a wardrobe favourite. I suspect it is partly to do with the colour (looks lovely on me and goes with everything in my wardrobe), partly the weight of the fabric is so nice (cotton poplin), the style is comfortable (love that back pleat!) and it suits my figure. What more can a girl ask for?

(For the record I have some red, red, red cotton sateen in the cupboard to make the actual dress up.)

Wedding dress trial – Ladies’ 1780 Portrait Dress bodice

8 Jun

Further to this post discussing the wedding dress trial, here is an update.

The bodice, all made up but no gathering or finishing off.


The bodice back, showing the seam detailing highlighted by flat-fell seams. The waist sits unevenly but I think it is because it is so light. It is likely to sit properly when  it has the weight of the skirt pulling down on it evenly, so I made no adjustments


The following pictures are 2 sash options. Top is a lovely light blue that brings a daytime freshness to it. Bottom is the darker one, that lends itself to a more evening look. The colours in the pictures are awful *sigh* I hope I can get better ones with the finished dress. I have no idea if each one will work. It is hard to visualise them in the finished dress for some reason. I figure if they don’t, I can go get another few options from the fabric store 😛





Wedding dress trial run – Ladies’ 1780 Portrait Dress

25 May

After umming and ahing and a few last-minute panics about it all, I’ve decided to do a trial run of the wedding dress. Why?

Well I am a bit uncertain about the neckline for the Ladies’ portrait dress. I want to wear a single pearl pendant. I think it will need a lower neckline than the pictures of the dress look to be.

  • Can I simply cut the neckline a bit lower? Will it work that way? Or will it just look silly? or not work?
  • Should I consider making a modified version of the style designed to go over the period underpinnings, so that the neckline isn’t gathered, and I can cut it in a low V?
  • Should I simply take the idea of the dress and create a hybrid with my original wedding dress pattern bodice and the skirt of the ladies’ portrait dress?

See what I mean? Panic!

Solution: A trial run so I have a great excuse to go buy some of the gorgeous voile available at Spotlight at the moment to sort it out. Yes. Of course!

I settled on this fabric. (It is not only beautiful, but was on special. The normal price for this range is very high. Meep. The shadows on the background are the pattern showing through from the fabric under – it was folded when I took this picture)

Tracing off the pattern went without a hitch. I traced off a size 16, making the sleeves an inch wider than the pattern because my upper arms tend to be bigger than patterns allow for. It’s a fairly loose sleeve anyway but comfort is a Good Thing!

The skirt is simply two widths of fabric, cut to the required length, and sewn together. Easy.

The top is the same as the version requiring period underpinnings, but the gathered front has been expanded out another 8 or so inches, then gathered at the top and bottom. Easy. I mean really easy. I am a bit concerned though, that there is too much fabric in the expanded section in the top. Good thing I am making a trial!

The funniest bit came when I went to sew the underarm seam on the sleeve. The sleeves are an odd shape, to fit the unusual “racer back” style of the back.

The polonaise option, showing clearly the unusual back and sleeve detailing common to all garments in this pattern.

The sleeve pattern piece is kinda squarish. I managed to sew one just fine. The second one I somehow sewed the wrong sides together. I didn’t notice till, pressing the seam, I spent 5 minutes trying to work out why I had an elbow dart in one sleeve and a shoulder dart in the other. Oops!

I ❤ my unpicker! (See, wasn’t this a great excuse to get that voile? it a great idea to do this trial run?)

The bodice is almost done now, just the neck to go. I have been tossing up whether to do a ruffle around the neck and sleeves like in the picture below (one of the portraits this pattern was based on). I think I would like the ruffle on the wedding dress, so perhaps I should give that bit a trial run too.

However… I am running out of extra fabric to play with.

Should I…

  • Ditch the ruffle idea because it really is tacky but I just hadn’t noticed?
  • Go buy some more of the same fabric for the ruffle
  • Go buy some fabric for the sash (which I haven’t got yet) and make the ruffles out of that too?

Please, what do you all think?

A wedding dress (my own) pt 1

6 May

I wonder how many posts I will get up to on my wedding dress by the time it is all over and done with?

Not to mention there are the bridesmaid’s dresses, the flower-girl dresses, and the page-boy outfits. And my fiancee has (I am shocked) graciously agreed to wear a shirt with some romantic-style ruffles and laces. Yes! I am making the most of this unusual agreeableness to non-Aussie-blokey Non-kiwi-blokey styling while I have it!

Speaking of my fiancee, he reads my blog. He has long been one of my closest fashion/sewing consultants. (“Yes, dear, it would look beautiful with that trim.” “Oh, well, dear, if you really love that fabric, you had better buy it then.” “Actually, you are right, dear, a sewing shed would be fantastic for you, of course we can get you one.” * )

In short it is all too hard to hide The Dress from him. After discussion we settled on me talking and sticking up pictures to my heart’s content, but I can’t let him see the final dress till our wedding day. No worries!

Enough of this talk. The pictures, the pictures!

My original dress idea: Vogue 2788

Such a gorgeous dress.

Ok, the Plans for this dress were: no train; the lovely little capped sleeves in chiffon; a chiffon overskirt edged in the same lace as the neckline, ruched up a few inches into scallops around the hem, the ruching fastened with little blue flowers.

There were two problems, namely that although I would wade in and make this dress with confidence, when I got the fabric I found the metres of slithery delicate satin silk terrifying slightly intimidating. In short, I doubted my technical ability to pull it off, and figure a dress this important reeeelly isn’t the time to extend myself too much. (I want to enjoy my wedding day, not be overwhelmingly frazzled by sewing-stress)

The other problem is, even with the modifications, this style just seemed a little too formal and sophisticated for my personality. (I do try to be relatively sensible and all-growed-up, but am not that great at it.)

One day I was checking out Sensibility.com (as you do ;-P) and realised she had finally finished this pattern for adult women. (She has long had a girl’s version).

It was an instantaneous and totally heartfelt decision. THIS is the dress I want. I ordered it within the hour. It has the added bonus that the flower girls (my daughter and my niece, the new mothers of the jemima dolls) can be in the matching girl’s pattern. (I reckon I could also make two matching Flower Dolly dresses too 😉

Btw, I recommend clicking on the photo which will take you to the website, where you can see some of the paintings that inspired these dresses. But for a sneak preview, this is my absolute fave 🙂

*This seemingly wonderful (if foolhardy) comment came about from a total mis-match of our concept of “sewing shed”. Mine was a huge, airconditioned, fully-powered shed with wide windows overlooking a gorgeous view, letting in lots of natural light; a soft-but-not-carpet floor covering so I wouldn’t lose pins but my feet wouldn’t get sore; floor to ceiling storage, and filled with every kind of machine and paraphernalia and cutting tables any seamstress could possibly want.

His version was one of those tiny little cupboard-style zincalume sheds you can stick the fertalizers and a few brooms in…

Swing dress sew-along – cutting and fitting the paper pattern

12 Feb

GGGGRRRRRRRrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr <—— very loud, very frustrated growl.

1) What is with the 1/2 inch seam allowances? Every other pattern (well, in my experience anyway) apart from the occasional lingerie one, has 1.5 cm seams interchangeable with 5/8th inch seams. What on earth is a half an inch in metric anyway?
And I like having 1.5cm seams to play with, it makes vagaries of fitting different drapes of fabric so much easier to manage.

2) The pattern totally lacks any markings such as waist, hips, bust point. It lacks nape-waist markings or measurements.
These two factors, combined with this piece of information in the pattern notes have me totally frustrated:

The bodice is designed to accommodate long-waisted ladies – those with a nape-to-waist measurement of 17″ to 18″. If your nape-to-waist measurement is less than this, you will most definitely need to shorten the bodice pieces.

Huh? What? When your nape-waist is 14″ a variation of 1″ is waaay too much. NOT IMPRESSED. I might as well go buy an RTW dress. With no pattern markings telling me where the waist is, let alone the nape, how on earth am I supposed to work out how much to shorten the bodice by? The whole thing is made even more impossible by the fact the shoulder seam does not sit on the shoulder, nor is there a shoulder point mark.

On a related subject, how much am I supposed to shorten the skirt by too, when there is no waist, hip – or heck, even the nape – markings?

I know I know. “Make a muslin” BUT, I have always found muslins work best when it is a bit of a tweak here or there, not practically re-drafting the entire garment to fit. After all, isn’t the point of a paper pattern so that you don’t have to do that?

Not impressed.


I don’t remember having this issue with the Regency gown. Mind you I did buy the Simplicity print of the Sense and Sensibility pattern, not the pattern direct from Sense and Sensibility. I just did my usual height adjustments, and straight back adjustments and it is fine.

I did consider the possibility of simply cutting it out as it was, and fitting the length on the muslin as best I could. But I find it almost impossible to adjust a muslin for my straight back, which needs a longer upper front than upper back, while still making the side seams match up. That really needs adjusting at the flat pattern stage, and needs the same reference points as to adjust the nape-waist length.
So I figured I would give it my best shot at getting the length and straight-back fitting issues resolved by tissue-fitting the pattern a la Palmers Fit for Real People. This isn’t really my favourite method of fitting as without a helper it is very hard to make sure everything is sitting on the body the way the finished garment would have fallen. And something like this dress is so involved, my Fitting Consultat aka mum won’t do it. (And I didn’t have the energy to bribe her with doing a bit of sewing for her in exchange!)
It is also not exactly easy to gather the printer paper up, and two seams needed it for this method for this dress. O_o
So I just tissue-fitted as best I could. I will cut out the seam allowances at 1.5 cm so I have that bit of playing room with the muslin.
I still have to adjust the skirt – the lack of waist marking is making that a bit hit-and-miss as well. But thankfully the muslin can sort that out easily.
Next up – muslin.

Swing Dress sew-along – cutting the muslin

26 Jan

Cutting the muslin

Casey of Elegant Musings, who is running the Swing Dress sew-along made a button for it. Not sure what to do with it (I am woefully ignorant of Blog-land stuff)
Here it is anyway!

I got ahead of rest of the sew-along, having just cut out my muslin. After stressing so much about the paper-fitting, I just wanted to see how it would turn out.
I am also going to Brisbane in a week, for a week, so won’t be able to work on it.
When I got to pinning the front piece I discovered there was no grainline marking. I am done with tearing my hair out about the pattern. I want to enjoy it, not whinge. So hey, who cares? I took a punt on the grainline being the front edge of the crossover bit. After all that is what muslins are for, aren’t they?

Swing dress sew along – adventures in home printing patterns

20 Jan

Printing the pattern
I had an amusing time with the Swing Dress e-pattern…

Apart from the odd small craft pattern, this is my first try at an e-pattern. I downloaded it, printed it out and stuck it all together.

There are no matching up marks as there are in the Burdastyle e-patterns I downloaded at the same time, but as the pages printed up in order from right to left, bottom to top, and it came with a printout of the entire layout, it was a lot easier to work out than I feared. There were the odd bits that didn’t quite match, but not so bad it will throw the finished garment off.
I used up heaps of stickytape, and it was like a grown-up version of kindergarten. My inner child had lots of fun! And it really wasn’t as big a job as it looked at first glance.

But half-way through I did get frustrated wrestling with the wind from our always-turned-on ceiling fans. I had the airconditioner on too, but the fans make the aircon’s capacity to cool just that much more effective (and friendly to our electricty bill and environment).
So when my fiance mentioned at his work they are always printing up large-sized plans at the copyshop, and it doesn’t cost a lot, I decided to just get it printed on one big sheet of paper there, along with the 3 burdastyle e-patterns I bought at the same time.
I sent it to them to print, and the copyshop had NO idea how to get the swing dress to print on one big sheet. So  I checked the FAQ’s on the Sensibility site, (only then, of course, not beforehand) and discovered it simply couldn’t be printed out like that. The only way was the stickytape and A4 sheets, as I was already doing.
Oh well.
However… the lovely girl that helped me out at the copyshop asked me where I got the pattern from. Her grandmother had just recently given her a sewing machine, and was in the process of teaching her how to sew (how awesome! Just like my Granny and mother did for me) And loved the patterns and wanted her own.
So I gave her the URL to the Sensibility site, BurdaStyle and a few other places I have found. Sadly, I discovered I knew the URLs off by heart I visit these places so much.
I hope she has much fun with them all.

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