The Simplicity Blogger Challenge - A New Look, with a Vintage Feel...

A new dress! What's more exciting than a new dressmaking project? Well, if you're me, not much :) 

And this is made even better by the fact it's a Simplicity competition for sewing bloggers; we get to choose between three categories, the prize being a year of free patterns - and the opportunity to write on the Simplicity blog too! So... where to start? 

Well, my chosen blogpost soundtrack for today, (if you have a way of opening another window to listen, at the same time as reading this) is Soul Bossa Nova; I could easily end up dancing about to this track, wearing this vintage-inspired dress..!
Sew, to set the scene, the Simplicity website states;
"Your challenge is to use the above pattern as a basis for your own bespoke creation. The only rule is that there are no rules! Using the pattern as your foundation, go wild with fabric, colour, nips here, tucks there and feel free to accessorise to the hilt! Whether fabric is your forte or your signature style is more haute couture, simply show us what you’re made of and stamp your very own style on these patterns."
In terms of rules, they're my favourite kind - essentially saying "do what you like!", which is very freeing. Having said that, I was already faced with a dilemma when looking at the New Look pattern 6145.

One of the issues I always have, when looking at a pattern envelope, is that it's hard not to copy the colours and fabric choices shown on the cover - it's like I can't shake those images out of my head. And let's face it, if you're given free-reign to do whatever you like with a pattern, you really need to be imaginative! So, to free my mind a little I did some online research, and created a Pinterest page. All I knew for certain was that I wanted a 60's feel. What transpired was that the images I was drawn to threw up a couple of things; firstly a reminder that the gamine look was 'in' in the sixties; hey, I'm no Twiggy!! Add to that the fact I'm not really a fan of short dresses - I planned to add length to my version, to bring it just past the knee. So far, so different. 
And, in spite of all the fabulous prints I'm naturally drawn to, I think there's a fine line between 'vintage-inspired' and 'fancy dress', don't you? But then again, I think it's possible to keep something looking current, by juxta-posing a 60's dress with natural flowing hair and modern accessories (for example); I think modern vintage is something that someone like Blake Lively does without blinking...

I digress.

Also in my online research, I found another blogger, who had bought this very sewing pattern in order to make her own version of a Michael Kors dress she'd fallen for...

If you check out her blog, you'll see Adrienne made alterations to the pattern to suit her - ending up with a longer, more close-fitting dress. I love the hot pink colour on her, and the fit too, it really does look incredible on her. But then I started to wonder if making those sorts of fitting changes would make the dress less 'itself'... bear with me...

Back when I made my first sewalong dress, the Laurel, I took it in so much, and altered the look of it to such a degree that, although I was happy with it - I couldn't honestly say it WAS the Laurel, once I'd finished it. I made mine to fit me - taking inches from the back, adding darts to curve in at the waist, leaving the basic shift dress cut behind. This is a look I'm more comfortable in; I don't generally feel loose-fitting clothes do me any favours - they just make me look much bigger than I am. So, here was my predicament; do I go down the 'keep to the pattern' route, whereby the vintage feel remains, and it's obvious I'm going for something in-keeping with the sixties era..? OR, do I take a gamble, and alter the Simplicity pattern to within an inch of it's life, just so that it'll be wearable for me in the future?
Well. I think it's false economy to spend that much time and money creating something I know I won't get any wear out of, just so that it falls within the confines of an era... besides which, I found plenty of supporting evidence to support my claim that 60's clothes weren't ALL a-line, without hourglass definition; the remnants of 50's fashion blurring the fashion lines. I'm starting to sound defensive now, aren't I? Ha! 
But the decision was made, inspired by Adrienne's chutzpah, I'm going for a dress I'll be eager to wear, based on a Simplicity pattern I love..!

I headed to my local fabric shop, and toyed with the idea of making the dress in a pastel yellow, or soft blue - fitting for the summer months ahead. Then I considered the brocade look that was so popular in the sixties, and stood touching their selection for...well far too long. In the end it turned out to be nearly £18 per metre, and as I needed more than a couple of metres, and had no idea whether or not it would turn out well or not - I thought against it. Back to the drawing board. Finally I turned to Ebay, (unlike me), and found 3 metres of black and white polka dot neoprene fabric for £1.50! I mean, IN TOTAL! I bought it thinking, what's the worst that can happen..? If it turns out to be rubbish quality, I've only wasted £1.50! Turns out, it wasn't rubbish... Fluke! (FYI, in general I've found good quality neoprene starts around the £10/metre mark, double that if you want a print or 'exciting' colour that isn't black or white...). I thought I'd check to see if polka dot is being worn at the mo, and found this cheeky pic of Cheryl!

Not your thing? OK - how about this less-cheeky-more-expensive Moschino number?

Or this Dolce and Gabbana number..?

So, although you don't see polka dots every day, they are out there...

I also decided to use my walking foot - for the first time! Exciting, but a little nerve-racking, as it looked rather...technical. Anyway, it was quite straight-forward in the end - I just followed this Youtube tutorial. (Interestingly, the lady in the video goes on to say you HAVE to use a walking foot with certain fabrics, like plastics, faux leather, etc - but I've been making my bibs from oil cloth with a normal foot, and never thought to use this... so it'll be interesting to see what sort of a difference it makes when I return to making those.)

The polka dots proved to be a little tricky when it came to pattern matching. I didn't want to end up with a dress that showed an 'off-spot' (yes, that's the technical term I'm now using) - so I went to great lengths in the prep to avoid ending in an off-spot catastrophe!

You can see from the pic that, even though relatively thick, the fabric is sheer enough to see when the spots aren't lined up with each other. This meant I was able to fold the fabric in such a way that the pattern pieces were exactly the same when cut. The front piece was rather straight-forward, I went for a line of spots running down the centre of the body, but I was a bit flummoxed when it came to matching up the spots along the centre back; what with the 1.5cm seam allowance, the spots being 3.8cm across in diameter, and then factoring in the invisible zip... 
But don't go thinking that all the 'prep maths' meant I ended up with the perfect measurements, oh no! I had to unpick the zip more than once to get the desired result - but I knew I'd be critical of it FOREVER if the spots didn't match up perfectly down the centre back.

Also, if you are thinking of working with neoprene, bear in mind the fabric thickness means there are processes that are harder to execute...specifically when there are three or more layers to sew through, in the areas where facing is applied, or around corners (or all three, as with the neckline above). But difficult does not mean impossible; I found pressing before sewing helped enormously, we fought less after a good press. :) And, in it's defence, neoprene's generally lovely to work with, not at all slippery - and with no danger of fraying.

Finally, before sharing my dress with you - I must add that, if you're thinking of making this pattern, pay attention to the ease before cutting your pieces. For those of you that don't know, 'ease' is the difference between your body measurements and the finished garment. This dress comes with a huge 5" ease... essentially it's a very loose dress, if you follow the instructions religiously. If, like me, you decide before cutting that you'll go at least one size down from your own, to account for the fact there's so much extra ease, it will mean you'll get a more fitted look, and you'll use less fabric to begin with - which may mean you can be more economical with your pattern cutting. Obvious, no?

And so to the finished garment....


I asked someone at work to take a few photos of me in a corridor last night (thanks John!!), and we were both in a bit of a rush - so please excuse the manic look on my face!

I think the best thing to come out of this experience is the fact I have found a versatile pattern that's enjoyable to sew up - and has SO many possibilities... I made version 'E' from the pattern choices; I'm already thinking about sewing up an 'A' in broderie anglaise, and shortening version 'B' into a jersey t-shirt. I could go on..! 

Check out all the other entries, currently on Twitter with the hashtag #SimplicityBloggerChallenge - and let me know what your thoughts are on my convoluted creative process; do you have a technique you use for producing ideas, sewing or otherwise?
Thanks for reading, and speak soon - there are lots of plans afoot I look forward to sharing with you...

Gema x

Kookiness in the corridor...


  1. GAH! You look so dang cute in this dress. Not into cute? Okay...lovely, gorgeous! And this is neoprene?!! Wow. You've executed this beautifully, and the polka dots are just right!

    1. What a lovely comment! And I'll take cute, never called that! :) Thank-you so much for stopping by, for being so complimentary - and for giving me the chance to discover your blog - so colourful and happy! Lovely to meet you, albeit online x Gema x

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Wow, that is such a great dress! Great job matching the polka dots in the back! Looks so fab, I'm going to have to buy this pattern now!

    1. Thanks Kyle! And let me know when you've made yours, I can share it here :)

  3. p.s. with the hem, and the armholes--did you hem the neoprene or just cut it off? I'm just curious, having never worked with neoprene before!

    1. You know, I thought long and hard about not hemming the dress, as it doesn't really need it... but in the end I did, just to see if it would work. I would say that pressing is VERY important with neoprene, it won't do anything you want it to, without!! :D

  4. Looks great and very retro! Your hard work on the dot matching paid off!

    1. Thank-you so much! I still find myself giving it the 'side eye'... because the neckline was cut on the bias, I had to let the whole 'pattern matching' thing slide where it meets with the dress... but I'm happy with the centre back, so that's one thing! :) I love your top BTW, great work- good luck in the comp!!

  5. Another great classic look Gem - excellent and precise - and I'm seconding "cute" unconditionally as well BTW! Best as always AndyL (Pickle2884) ; )

    1. Thanks so much Andy! Really pleased to hear you like it! :)

  6. A great result chic and elegant, I suppose you can now make a strapless one with confidence now after last night..
    When you enter these competitions do you get an idea of how many entries there are and odds of winning or is it just about taking part?

    1. Hi Brian, and thank you for the compliment :) No, I don't know how many entries there are (altho I do look often at all the shared pics from other makers and bloggers) so no idea re the odds, but yes, you've got it, it's much more about being a part of the whole thing. It feels like a celebration of sewing! :D

  7. Absolutely LOVE your version!

    1. Thank-you Adrienne !! I'm so pleased! :D


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