Simplicity 8647: Fragments, the dress

This is Simplicity 8647, a Harriet Selwyn designer pattern, from 1978. I’ve included the back view this time because the cover art is so drapey and wrapped and layered it’s hard to see what is even there, but the back gives a nice clear view of the pieces (dress, vest, shirt) and of how the dress can work frontwards with the scoop neckline in front, or backwards with the square neckline in front. 

This is why I made this dress:

Because I thought it would be the perfect vehicle for this weird fabric.

It’s like a burnout velvet, but the area that would be velvet is knit instead. The sheer base is not knit though, it’s a net, more in the style of the background found in lace, so it’s not quite like those burnout knit T-shirts I’ve seen here and there either.  It has a giant geometric design, slightly Deco, slightly Aztec. Makes me think of the Oviatt Building and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock house. The design is symmetrical side-to-side but didn’t have a lengthwise repeat in my piece, which was a three yard precut piece that I dug out of the bins at the Michael Levine Loft. I’ve never seen anything like this stuff. I wonder if it was manufactured for curtains. If so they would be pretty amazing. 

I wanted to use as much of this weirdo fabric as possible, so I cut a lining exactly as the pattern, and then swung the pattern out for max fullness when I cut the burnout knit. Seemed like a good idea at the time. 

Above is what we are calling backwards, with the square neck in front, and below is frontwards, with the scoop neck in front. 

Ok, so, problems I see with this: 

First, I should’ve worn tights in a light color, to blend in with the light colored lining and make the whole thing look more sheer and magical. No hard line where the lining ends and the tights start. 

Second, it’s too dang long. This is the length it’s patterned to be. Usually with a tent dress I’d go short, so as to retain the sense of there being a person somewhere inside all that dress, but this time I wanted to use as much of the fabric as possible so I trusted the pattern. 

Might be ok at this length as a summer dress, with no tights. I’m realizing that black tights really need a mini skirt, or else they veer into matron territory. I think it looks approximately one million times better with the belt, which brings back the idea that there is a person somewhere in there. 

Thirdly, sadly, the extra fullness in the sheer layer reduces the impact of the giant geometric design. The fullness folds in on itself and chops itself up visually. 

I could just stand like this all the time:

Or like this: 

Or like this.

Sew It or Throw It

I’m calling this pattern a Sew It, but On Probation. My version is woven and lined, whereas this pattern is supposed to be made in a single layer of stretch. My plan is to hold onto this pattern until I can give it a real chance to prove itself. 

Oh, and it took six and a quarter hours to make. I expect if I make it the right way someday it’ll take like two hours. 

Speaking of more appropriate fabrics, I think this pattern could be a prime candidate for something hideous like double knit polyester. Think about it. Tiny bit of stretch, but heavy enough to prevent clinging, which is all I can think of when I see tricot on the recommended fabrics list. Cling! 

As for my burnout knit, I probably should have saved it for something flat, like a long columnar tank dress or something, that would show the design more dramatically. But whatever, no fabric regrets. 


20 thoughts on “Simplicity 8647: Fragments, the dress

  1. OK, well, put me in the “love” column here. I wouldn’t put it on probation. Maybe you just need to take the dress out to a party to see it deserves better than probation ;-)

    I’d probably wear it belted but I think it works perfectly well unbelted, too. And I like the length. I think it was a great choice for the fabric. Thumbs up all the way.


    1. Yay! I’m glad you like it.
      Sometimes I have that problem where I immediately dislike the thing I’ve just finished. Like the opposite of that thing where the most recent project is the omgfavorite. So maybe I just need to chill!


      1. Don’t know what to say because I have the same problem. Once I’m done I see all the flaws — the visible and the possible that maybe I’m not seeing but who says I won’t start seeing them imminently. It takes me a while to warm up to anything I’ve made.

        So it helps to hear from someone else that what you’ve made looks really great. In my eyes, you nailed it with this one: it’s a great party dress and also a very thoughtful pairing of a challenging fabric with a pattern that plays up its uniqueness (and doesn’t get too busy). Awesomesauce.


  2. You could take it apart and recut it into a tank like columnar dress, couldn’t you? It seems as if there is enough fabric there to salvage.

    And I hear you about black tights needing a short skirt length. I tried some with a just below the knee pencil skirt and it looked extremely frumpy. It probably didn’t help that skirt is dark wash denim. I’m putting it away for warmer weather, bare legs and sandals.


  3. The dress worn backwards with the belt looks very pretty on you. It’s a dress that you could wear to a party or shopping. You are right, lighter coloured tights would set it off. I love it.


    1. Oh, I forgot to say, the dress as patterned is meant to have pockets! Your mention of wearing it for shopping reminded me. I didn’t include the pockets this time because I didn’t want to anchor the sheer layer to the lining layer, but I can imagine it feeling great to slouch around with my hands in my pockets while out in the world. With lighter tights. Or nothing. Next time!
      Thanks for the feedback on which way looks best too, it was hard for me to see past the tights but I was just noticing that I had more “ok” photos with the dress backwards, so that’s probably a sign. Thank you!


  4. the necklines are so interesting – what a quirky touch…. I like it, and think it should work well with bright tights/no tights – know what you mean on the length, it works well belted at that length I think? its a very quirky fabric – and works well with the dress…… amazing how different (in a good way) yours looks to the pattern envelope!


  5. With thick tights I generally wear skirts at a little to quite a lot above the knee. If it below the knee they always look terrible unless you wear deliberately “frumpy” shoes eg brogues, Dr Martens, trainers – like you are dressing ironic (with a beanie), or like Miss Moneypenny. This pattern has got legs but I don’t love this incarnation, and I agree with all your critical analysis. Got anymore of that gold stuff?


  6. It’s so striking! I know what you mean about sack dresses and proportions. I think this would be amazing with bare legs in summer. Could you shorten it a little? Imagine striding along somewhere on a warm breezy day with this billowing around you – stunning!


  7. I know you’re not the biggest heels person, but I actually love the length and think with some nude hose and some chunky heels in brown or gold this would be killer. Still photos or reflections don’t accurately reflect this type of garment which comes alive with movement. And also, can I say tent dresses for the win when dining out.


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