Essential sewing keeping me clothed and sane

Start Living…


“Let’s start living and dressing like every day is an occasion because it is!”          Julia Alarcon. Lialia

I have a true friend whose life has been turned upside down recently: she is remarkable; she is shining and glowing; she is optimistic, strong and positive; she is discovering her true self and loving what she finds and I like it too. I’m so glad I know her. She’s not suffering so why should I fret about a half made rain coat?

So, in a new positive and optimistic frame of mind I made a dress – a fierce blue dress mind you. An opportunity to hone those sewing skills, slow down a little and enjoy the process, take your time, do it right and end up with an ISFO (impressive successful finished object).


I subscribe to Vogue patterns and was email bombarded recently by images of Julia Alarcon’s Lialia V1531. If you too received the emails, then you’ll know what I mean; I succumbed and after the disaster of the trench coat I was looking forward to a successful make.


Got the pattern – needed fabric. Off to ClothSpot for some poly crepe which is the most perfect fabric for this pattern. I chose a violet-blue, sort of a bluebell blue – touching on forget-me-nots – it’s a super fabric, drapey and robust but watch out for the fraying and plucking. There’s loads of other colours available and I’m so tempted… tempted..

The dress itself is a gorgeous, simple, close fitting dress with drama – a very deep cowl at front and totally backless. This is not your everyday, wear to the office dress but boy, it packs some punch.

Princess seamed bodice, a 4 gore back skirt mirrored by a centre seam in the front skirt and side seams, there are lots of places for perfect fitting opportunities. I cut a 12 and literally sewed up as seen. It is a close fitting dress (at least mine is) ………..hold those tummies in, go to the gym three times a week (and NOT to the bar) and don’t breathe!

The dress has a self-lined bodice and a separate lined skirt. This means that if your stitching at neck or armholes is less than perfect, it doesn’t matter too much as it’s the same fabric on show.


I read reviews of the pattern and everyone seemed to have trouble attaching the dress to the lining. I did too… There are alternative ways to sew the two together and previous sewers did what we all would do in the same situation, just figure out a working solution. The big problem with this dress is the cowl neck which is sewn on early in the construction as it takes up 360 degrees and prevents any turning out at all.

It went from this, to this to this.

And nothing worked. I followed the instructions, sewed and when it came to turn right sides out, it was impossible.

Conventional dressmaking dicates that to attach a lining, you turn the dress inside out, match the seams, sew and then turn right way out. And this is what the rather scant instructions state you should do. I followed this but it didn’t work.

So, I  stood on one leg and tried to turn the whole lot right sides out – No.

I threw it in a corner and hoped it would figure itself out: that somehow miraculously all would be well without any intervention from me at all – No, hardly surprising really.

I employed the services of shamans and wickens but that didn’t work either.

It took me two days to figure it out – all that mental rotation and geometry is exhausting and took up an inordinate amount of wine – but here’s how to do it. This will probably only make sense to you if you too are struggling to attach the lining as per the pattern instructions.


As usual, in the end, it’s relatively straightforward and while not difficult, just a wee bit ackward.


I lengthened my skirt by 3″ and with a 1.5″ hem it just about hits my knee. I’m 5’6″ so not very tall, just normal.

I adore the large drapey cowl. There’s an option for a drawstring thingy in the cowl but I left this out. The instructions also advise Hong Konging the seam in the cowl with lining fabric. Again I didn’t do this and made a flat felled seam instead which is so much neater and works equally well right side or wrong side out. According to Vogue it can be styled in lots of different ways but in end I just like it as it is.


Dramatic as the front cowl is – the real action is at the back – or rather the lack thereof:


Completely backless, this dress either requires a specialist bra or none at all. I was expecting the ‘hole’ to gape but it sits very comfortably and flat.

There’s a short invisible zip at centre back with a very important hook and eye – it’s this little unimposing notion that keeps the back fitted to the body, so don’t skip it and get it in the right position for perfect finishing.


I hardly ever show my upper arms and have rarely displayed my bare back. It’s an unusual look and might take a little getting used to. I have hundreds of moles, every one a potential cancer site and I’m slightly self-conscious of them, added to which I already have scars from melanoma surgery. Usually, I’m not bothered as I don’t ever see my own back, let alone show it off, so except for these photos I didn’t really know what I looked like from this perspective.


This is not a straightforward or simple make, despite the simplicity and clean lines of the finished garment. Vogue have rated it as Average but I’d tend to nudge it towards the Difficult rating.

Best advice I can offer if you intend making this beautiful dress –

  • Don’t turn off your iron – pressing is critical.
  • Be bold clipping the seam allowances
  • Keep old fashioned needles threaded – when the going gets tough sew by hand.
  • Take your time, seam ripper always within easy reach
  • Follow the instructions for order of construction.

Maybe every sewing project should begin with a positive state of mind……


43 thoughts on “Start Living…

  1. Whit woo you sexy lady! Very very nice, I loved the look of this but it definitely wouldn’t work for me. Vogue designer patterns are so INTERESTING, I love ’em!

  2. Stunning. I thought I had avoided Vogues marketing, but now I need this pattern!

  3. That’s a gorgeous FO, looks da bomb! I bought this one too at the last Vogue sale and await its arrival, so thanks for your construction tips. I’m thinking of “filling in the back” though. Much as I love it, I know I won’t wear it if it presents bra issues.

  4. Va-va-va-voom-voom-voommmmm!

    I bought that pattern too, so thanks so much for your tips! Maybe I’ll get to it in like a decade or so 🙂 Or maybe I should make it soon to wear to the races with my ott anti-social block-your-view hat that I never have a chance to wear…Your fabulousness in this dress has really inspired me now!

  5. What a deceptive dress – looks classic and simple at first glance, but so flattering, and with the kick in the back! The colour and style look fab on you (and… whisper… very youthful. In awe of your strapless back too.)

  6. Looks brilliant, it’s a perfect fit and great colour.

  7. A super looking dress on you. Very figure flattering. So glad the wine helped you work out how to do it! Works for me every time.

  8. I too have bought this design. Can you enlighten me how you coped with the bust issue?? Unfortunately mine are 36 D’s and definitely need some support. I must be mad to consider making this – aged 72 – but hey, I’m not going to get any younger!!

    • Hi Stella,
      Google “backless strapless bras.” I’m not certain how well they work, and it may take the above mentioned shamans and wikkens to keep it in place. May be worth a shot. And I LOVE that you’re 72 and making this. I bet you’ll rock this look.

    • I also love that you are 72 and may make this! My mom is 71 and is “younger” and livelier than I am. I am considering making this and will likely fill in the back to deal with the bust issue (and also because I get cold). Pulling the cowl over the shoulders to make a sort of an over-cape is also an interesting wearing option.

      • Thanks for your comments. I think I might have to fill in the back too. I don’t see why the centre front has a seam either. If I could find a backless bra that would hold up “the girls”, I would give the open back a try!

  9. Stunning dress! Beautiful colour. Tricky construction and I’m sure your detailed explanation of how to attach the lining will be appreciated by many who plan to make this. Awesome sewing skills as always.

  10. A gorgeous dress and the colour looks great on you. Thanks for the making up tip, although I don’t think I will be making this but with the back is filled in and sleeves added, that would be a something else. Love that cowl neck.

  11. Wowza looks fabu. Wondering how to pull off 38ds under that without support. Great inspiration, thanks.

  12. Stunning! The color and fit are fantastic. And kudos for figuring out that construction – it looks a bit like shirt making, rolling the shirt inside the yokes and miraculously it comes out right.

  13. This is a terrific dress on you!

  14. Nice blue dress my preference would be for red Lady in Red by Chris de Burgh

  15. Gorgeous (as always)! And thanks for the lining instruction, it will be helpful, if I ever dare to start sewing the dress 😉

  16. suits you so well and the colour, too. Brilliant!

  17. Until I saw your version, this just didn’t appeal to me. You look gorgeous in it. I’m exhausted by the idea of all of the things we should and shouldn’t wear based on our perceived flaws. You look gorgeous in this and I hope you wear it often. Thanks so much for sharing this, and especially how you were able to get the lining to work.

  18. You have got a perfect fit here, Ruth. This type of dress really suits you and the open back is stunning. I expect you will have come to the rescue of many a sewer with your detailed explanation of the lining.

  19. Kudos to you for making this Ruth, and it looks fabulous on you. But, but, but, you didn’t say anything about the shoes! Are those plastic shoes??? And are those red lips on them? How cool, how unique.

  20. Beautiful! Color, design, fit-everything!

  21. Gorgeous woman, gorgeous dress 🙂

  22. I too am covered in moles; to see someone without them looks odd to me! In my eyes you look normal 😉

    That is one stunning dress, you look amazing (as always!)


  23. That dress is a stunner and so are you! I think it makes up ten times over for the coat not working so well. You obviously chose the perfect fabric for this one and the perfect colour for you. You are “da bomb”! I hope your husband takes you out somewhere swanky to show you off.

  24. That’s come out great! Beautiful fit and the colour is stunning on you. Thanks for the details about sewing it up…I have this one in stash and now I want to have a go myself.

  25. I have been lusting over this dress, but a head filled with “you would never wear it, you don’t like showing your arms, you couldn’t wear your bra” mean I haven’t planned to make it. I love it on you .. it’s fab and filled with admiration for you just going sod it im making it. Maybe I will join you (but would still have to work it with a decent bra!). I do love the colour of the vogue one. Don’t you love Clothspot. Best ever descriptions of fabric. Xx

  26. Wowsers!! This dress is fab-u-lous!! Loving the cowl neck, and the fabric is gorgeous. Must. not. click. on. link…

  27. Ruth, You look amazing. I love the energy of this post and your point is spot on. You have inspired me to have a go at a modified version of this dress, maybe in a deep raspberry or green. The blue is perfect and very chic on you. I really love the option of wearing the cowl over the shoulders as a kind of a mantle, too.

  28. Pingback: Sewing Goodness Extracts | Lin3arossa

  29. You look amazing, from the fit to the colour. This one’s stunning.

  30. What a beautiful dress! You look just amazing and thank you for the tips!

  31. Fabulous dress and the look is stunning on you. I’m not crazy about backless styles, it’s just a part of my body I don’t love, but like Stephanie noted, there are options! Please tell us you have a fab garden party to wear this to, cocktails and hats are in order – just beautiful 😉

  32. Another gorgeous finish of a rally complex project. You look terrific in it – fit, fabric, finish all wonderful.

  33. Gawjus, Ruth, and very daring at the same time. 😉 That quote at the beginning is something to really consider, as I paste it up on my computer screen’s edge to remind me… Thank you!

  34. Your dress is absolutely STUNNING! I am in proper awe, you should be well proud of yourself because the colour and fit are pure excellent!!

  35. That’s a new pattern to me – and your version is a stunner!

  36. Oh this is just lovely! The colour is astonishingly beautiful and the fit is spot on! I love the open back on you too. Just sexy enough!
    And I do hope all goes well for your friend.

  37. Beautiful! You did a great job!!!!!

  38. Pingback: No Fabric…. 2 & 3 | corecouture

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