Saturday, February 7, 2015

Eva Dress E30-744: 1930's Dinner Gown With Cape

This is easily the most frustrating project I have ever undertaken.

Silk velvet?  Check.

Silk charmeuse?  Check.

Cut on the bias?  Check.

I grew so frustrated with it, in fact, that I abandoned it for months at a time.  I started it over two years ago, and only finished it recently.  Such a pain, and yet...

The design is simple.  The bodice is loose-fitting, with four small darts providing a minor amount of shaping at the bust.  The skirt is cut on the bias, and a godet in the back forms a grain.  A circular cape passes through a buttonhole in the center front bodice and holds up the dress.  I added extra fullness to the godet and extra length to the cape.

I made the dress out of purple silk velvet, and lined it with black silk charmeuse.

Since I started this project so long ago, most of the details are lost to memory.   Here are the high points and the low points.

What Went Well:

I love, LOVE the finished dress.  I love the way the bias-cut skirt hugs my body.  I love the drape and swishiness of the cape.  I love the feeling of the lining against my skin.  The dress is so warm.

What Went Poorly:

Oh man, where do I start.

The front of the skirt is a single piece of velvet cut on the bias.  The two sides of the skirt front did not stretch out symmetrically in either the velvet or the charmeuse.  There followed several iterations of buying more fabric, recutting the skirt front, sewing the skirt together, letting it hang, ripping the skirt front out, cutting it to the size of the original pattern piece, and sewing it together again.  Do yourself a favor and add a center front seam. 

I did work out the problems reasonably well in the end, though there are still lumps in the side seams I wish I could have avoided.

Sewing silk velvet is frustrating in every possible way.  It's slinky.  The nap interlocks, causing it to creep.  It's easy to mar the fabric.  The bias-cut edges stretch.  It took extensive trial and error to learn how to sew the silk velvet properly.  I should write a separate post about it, since there's more material than would fit in a project review.

Sewing bias-cut silk charmeuse is also difficult, but for different reasons-- the pieces deform almost instantly when you handle them.

Something went wrong with inserting the zipper at the side seam, though I can't remember what happened.  All I know is that the zipper is too short for the dress to go over my head easily.

In Conclusion:

Would I sew this dress again?  Actually, I would.  I don't need a second copy of this particular dress, but I could easily see myself incorporating the skirt into another design, as long as I added a center front seam.  In my persistence, I learned how to sew difficult fabrics in a straightforward, if not fast, way, and how to troubleshoot problems as they arose.  I'm calling it a win ;-)


  1. Hi - do you know where I can find this pattern for sale? It is no longer listed on Eva Dress. Any help is appreciated. Thanks!

    1. It's still up! Enjoy, and please feel free to write me if you make it and have questions!

  2. I'm not sure if I'm repeating this comment or not. I'd love a tutorial on sewing silk velvet. I've got a length that has sat unused for years because it seems so scary.

    1. Sure! I'm pretty slow about writing and posting things, but the basic points are these: you should select a pattern that has few seams; cut out the pieces using a single layer, being careful that the nap runs in the same direction on all the pattern pieces; and when you sew it, use a walking foot, pin frequently (ever 1/4 inch or more), and put something like tissue paper between the two pieces to keep the nap from interlocking and creeping. You'll probably want to practice with the scraps before you move on to the pattern pieces. If you try it and run into problems, please feel free to write me!