Essential sewing keeping me clothed and sane

Close Cover before Striking….


It’s finished well in time for New Year’s Eve – smokin’!


Actually, I’ve made a total of 4 bodices and 2 skirts trying to get the right size, which was my biggest headache with this project and all my own fault. So firstly I want to acknowledge some people who pointed me the right direction and made me try harder and improve…..

Marysia – I never even thought about the sizing of the pattern when printing it out. This could have been the problem all along – maybe the computer ‘shrunk’ or ‘fitted’ the pattern to A4 instead of printing ‘actual’ size. That would explain a lot. After tiling and taping all the pieces together I graded the pattern rather than printing it all out again.  Note to V&A: put a 10cm square on your downloadable patterns so we can check accuracy of printing.

Elle C – I liked your comment the best: that a 12 in 1980 is not a 12 in 2013. I do believe there is something in that ’cause one day a man told me that one night Marks & Spencer’s re-labeled all their women’s clothes, swapping the size 16 to size 14, a 14 to a 12 and so on.

Mrs Mole – always right as usual! Measure the paper pattern, measure yourself; if the pattern is smaller than you – then it ain’t gonna fit! It’s that simple!

Tanya and Marysi – advice and links on backless bras – many thanks

Sheree – that I’m not the only one who rushes into a sewing project and lives to regret it.

Scarlett, Rhonda, Jean and many others – for encouraging me to try again and do better.

Thanks to you all. And now to the gory details…..


I had to abandon centimetres as a measuring unit and move back to inches – the grading was that dramatic! I cut the skirt pieces in two right down the middle and added a 3″ strip to both front and back. This kept the lines of the side pleats intact while providing the extra girth I obviously needed. This means I added 6″! It also gave me the traditional 5/8″ (1.5cm) seam allowance instead of the 1cm provided with the pattern.



For the bodices I made brand new ones. I traced around the originals to get the basic shape and draped this on Doris, marking out new side seams and adding 3″ to the bodice length. I marked up some extra darts too thinking a bigger bodice would require extra fitting. I scooped out the front neckline by an additional 2″ because I like a slightly lower front and don’t suit a boat line neck. As for the glorious single French dart on the bodice front I included the dart in my cutting out and then pinned it out to fit me getting the ends of the darts to hit exactly (or nearly) on the breasts.

All facings then had to be recut to fit the new bodice neckline and wider skirt.

Sleeves were re-drafted to fit into the ‘new’ armholes of the bodice and widened down the arms. This was really a hit or miss affair – I have no skills in drafting sleeves. I did read a lot about sleeves and how they work though.


I rethought the fabric. Something with a bit more stretch was needed. While the red crepe is a lovely fabric it wasn’t right for this dress.  So I bought a whole new batch of red jersey and put the crepe away for another dress sometime in the future. This new fabric is fairly robust, a ponte knit and a slightly deeper red. It’s not your obvious  party frock fabric but it’s what you need for this dress.


The dress itself is fairly straightforward: sew bodice darts, sew shoulders, sew sides, attach facings, under-stitch and hand sew down: sew sleeves and insert: tack side pleats, sew skirt seams, make pleats, join the skirt and bodice, hem.

I did however veer off the basic construction:


1. Added a side zip (right side as the pleats are on the left). Bit tricky in a jersey and yes, I should have stabilised before sewing in….

2. Lined the main dress (not sleeves) and hand sewed the lining to seams and shoulders.


Added a waist stay for extra security and to keep the dress in place during wearing. This is just a casing of the dress fabric attached inside at the zip seams, a length of 1″ elastic threaded though and secured and a couple of hooks and eyes to fasten.

The lining gave me a substrate to hand sew the facings to so that the stitches wouldn’t be seen on the right side. It does also add an extra layer now that I am no longer the lithe 20 year old I was in the ’80s.


All the hems – skirt, sleeves, neckline are finished with facings rather than just turning the fabric back – nice couture touch I thought.

I searched the attic for my costume jewellery but couldn’t find it anywhere – mind you there’s a tonne (or two) of stuff in our attic and finding anything is nigh impossible  – so I made do with what I had to hand…

A gold chain worn backwards at the neck and the same gold chain worn frontways at the waist. A large gold cuff, red court shoes and a stick-on bra!

DSC00660 DSC00662

Opinions about accessories required please! Less is more? Or pile it on?DSC00667

67 thoughts on “Close Cover before Striking….

  1. after so much thought and tape went into this dress…it is just spectacular! Adding 6 inches to a pattern says a lot…mainly, this ain’t your size honey! ha ha I think your gold additions are just right…go big or go home! Hope you have a super time!

  2. Fantabulous! Love the gold accessories, and this was totally worth all the headaches, trials and perseverance. It’s a gorgeous dress!

  3. All I can say is WOW! Fabulous dress, you look fantastic. And very tall! It was worth persevering.

  4. Wow!!! Fabulous result after all your efforts. Thanks for sharing the process too. Your perseverance really paid off and you look gorgeous. Love the gold jewellery…it’s perfect.

  5. You look wonderful! The dress is beautiful.

  6. Yowza! What a wonderful result! You look great!

  7. You look amazing! A perfect dress to go with the smile. May the festivities begin!

  8. beautiful – love it just the way you are wearing it

  9. Ohh la la – all your hard work has paid off – what a gorgeous sexy dress. Red hot. You look great.

  10. Whoa, Baby! You look fantastic!

  11. You look smashing! I LOVE the jewelry — especially the necklace down the back.

  12. This is the biz! You have the height to carry this off, you have maintained the long narrow silhouette on which the original design was based. I liked your extra finishing touches inside. Does the casing maintain the waistline? You mustn’t have had the elastic under any tension or is would create puckers surely?
    As for the jewellery, the gold definitely goes really well. I’m quite a minimalist person with jewellery, so an annoying little voice in me is saying that the third loop at the waist is clashing with the side gathers. But I think we should ignore that voice, the three loops at the front match the three on your back. I also think your scoop at the neckline has improved the design. Thanks for posting such an interesting project. Expect to see a few more red items coming up 🙂

    • Wow, thanks Carol for such analytic comments. I like that. The waist stay doesn’t pucker because it’s not tight, just fitted but gives me the illusion of extra security. But I do agree with you about the chain at the waist – too much and it does detract from the side pleats, maybe a plain waist only chain would work better. Thanks so much for your feedback.

  13. Tremendous dress Ruth – I love all the gold and think you are all set for a wondrous New Year. Merry Christmas and looking forward to spending 2014 sewing and reading with you!

  14. Gorgeous! and perfect for New Year’s. I’m tempted to try the pattern myself now..

    • Oh go on… Scarlett says this is the only one she knows of, so really you should make and you have the figure for it too. Thank you so very much for the original links and background info – without you this dress would never have been made – I owe you big time!

    • Yes! Please make it – you’ll love it I’m sure.
      BTW – how fabulous is Ruth in hers!!! And yes, she is the only one I know of so far…..

  15. First of all, well worth the effort, you are smokin’ hot!!!
    As for the accessories, I love the back necklace, but I would leave off the belt.

  16. First of all, thank you for the call out! Glad I was able to be of some use to you in your time of need.

    Second, wow. You look dazzling in this dress. It is amazing to me that you look this hot in a dress that has sleeves, covers your boobs and doesn’t have a slit to the crotch. That is one great dress. I would consider being buried in it. Not that that time is coming soon, but keep it in mind. 🙂

    Love the accessories, it’s for New Year’s Eve, right? Pile it on, I say. And have a marvelous time.

    • You re-boosted my confidence Elle. You’ve hit on the one thing I have been thinking about recently – in 1980-90 we never wore waist-level necklines, or waist-high slits but still managed to look and feel feminine and sexy – since when did exposing flesh become tasteful?
      Let’s hope we have a few more years yet before we think about funeral outfits!

  17. You look wonderful in this dress. Perfect color and style for you. Have a great time welcoming in the new year!

  18. 2 hot 2 handle! I hope you are headed some place smashing for ringing in the new year because that dress is way to hot to keep in the house!

    • Hi Chris, just heading to some great friends’ house to welcome the New year in, but they know I sew and are expecting a party frock – can’t disappoint the fans you know! At least I’ll have a dress in the wardrobe now for all those cocktail party invitations!

  19. All the time spent on this dress was worth it cause that is one fabulous dress!
    I hope your hubby has somewhere wonderful planned to take you and show you off.

    • We rotate between some very good friends’ homes every year – I’ve a year off this time but he could always take me out another night couldn’t he? Thanks so much Kim

  20. Hi there Ruth,

    Glad I was able to help you along the way. Said you would “nail it” and you have.
    I e mailed the V&A before I downloaded the pattern, as there was no test square. Have to tell you still no response!! Pattern Vault wrote back to me and informed me that the way to check it was printing correctly was to look at the marked seam allowance…….which on this pattern is marked as 1cm. If you hadn’t raised the issue on your blog, I would have probably just printed it off and my pattern would be wrong. When it came up to print it showed up at 70 something……..Pattern Vault confirms, for anyone planning on downloading it now, should be set at 100%.

    I tend to be on the restrained side, and think that the bangle and the jewellery at the neckline is just perfect. Having said that though, I do like what you have done at the waistline. Ruth, you could wear it one time with the jewellery at the waistline and the next time not, to ring the changes?

    Congratulations it looks lovely and your smile says it all.

    • Oh you and your stick on bras! I spent hours looking at those and in the end went to M&S!
      That’s a brilliant point about the seam allowance as a measuring guide. I’m almost sure now Marysia that I printed the pattern out at the wrong setting and that was the start of all my troubles. But heck! I’ve learned loads about grading and stuff because of that mistake – so all’s well that ends well. Thank you so much once again for pushing and supporting me through this – real sewing buddy!

      • just got the new computer up and running………….other one was totally wiped out by a virus! So, just popping in to wish you a tremendously happy Christmas. Enjoy wearing your festive dress.
        Hugs, Marysia.

  21. Beautiful, Ruth! If I was tall like you I’d pile on the accessories !

  22. WOW!!! Great detail 🙂

  23. The dress is beautiful and looks stunning on you!

  24. You look simply stunning in this gorgeous dress ~ very elegant, stylish, and ready to party the night away … J

  25. Gosh – the dress is stunning! It looks very luxurious! And I love the title of your post . . . . . ‘Oh the Red Scarf Matches your Eyes!!’

    Enjoy your parties!!!

  26. I did not follow the whole journey (always not enough time in a day) but the result is spectacular Ruth, I wouldn’t change a thing and wear it like this. Have fun and be admired at the party. I’m very sure you will attract as much attention as when you were 20 😉 and i mean that in a very positive way.

  27. Pingback: Scarlett Hobble Dress 1980

  28. Wow! You look gorgeous in this dress!! Stunning!!!

  29. It looks fabulous! You look gorgeous.

  30. I DO admire you for sticking with this and coming out the other end! You have done a wonderful job and look fantastic. Enjoy your night.

  31. Pingback: Red December | corecouture

  32. Pingback: End of Years | corecouture

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