Monday, June 22, 2015

Pattern Review: 1935 Madeline Vionnet Dress

Ta-da!  A copy of a dress by the great Madeline Vionnet.

The pattern for this dress comes from the Japanese pattern book on Madeline Vionnet, which I reviewed earlier here.  The present post is just a brief pattern review-- I made a muslin and it turned out well enough to write about-- but I'll post a full review later, when I make the final dress.
I had long admired this dress for its simplicity and elegance.  I was thrilled when the Japanese Vionnet book had a pattern for it, so of course I had to try it first.

I'm planning to make the final dress out of four-ply silk crepe, which is very expensive.  I needed to make a muslin first, but since this design relies to heavily on the drape of the fabric for its final form, I couldn't use regular muslin.   So, I dug through my stash and found some drapey fabric I that I didn't like.  This brownish stretch silk crepe de chine fit the bill.  When I first ordered it, I didn't expect it to be this color, which somehow alternates between awesome and awful.  I also didn't expect it to be stretch fabric, which I generally hate working with.  The drape and the handling characteristics of stretch silk crepe de chine are very different from the non-stretch variety. 

This pattern is very unusual.  It consists of three pieces, one which comprises most of the dress and is stitched together in the front, and two gussets inserted into the back bodice, which helps form the casing for the strap.  The piece which comprises most of the dress was too large to fit on 45" wide fabric, so I had to cut it from two separate pieces, then sew it together.

The pattern was very simple to assemble.  You insert the gussets, sew the main pattern piece up the front, sew a casing for the strap, hem the edges,'re done.  The pattern originally called for a buckle to hold together the fullness at the center front.  I don't keep such buckles on hand, and if I used one I wouldn't be able to throw the dress in the wash, so I just sewed up the front a little.  If you were bustier than me, you might need to be able to unbuckle it to have enough fullness to take the dress on and off, but for me, it's fine.  I also didn't have any matching ribbon for the strap, so I just used white grosgrain ribbon.  I'll replace this with better ribbon when I have the chance.

The pattern instructions were in Japanese, so I had to go by the pictures, which didn't illustrate all the necessary steps.  I'll see if I can write a full set of instructions when I make the final dress.
All told, I really like this pattern.  It goes together quickly and easily, it looks great, and it feels amazing.  It's a very forgiving pattern if you haven't sewn a bias-cut dress before, thanks to the small number of seams.  One important thing to note is that the back is so low it can't be worn with a standard strapless bra.  The fabric is clingy enough that you really can't go braless, at least not with fabric this thin.  On the other hand, even if you feel like you couldn't wear it in public, it makes an amazing dress to wear around the house.  That's how I plan to use this version!


  1. looks so elegant, looking forward to seeing your next version - adore the back!

  2. Awesome dress! I love the back!