Tag Archives: designer inspired

Vogue 8539 – Vintage Pattern for a Modern Designer Inspired Style

I really like the gathers/tucks at the left shoulder in this Armani blouse I spotted over the summer. It’s also available in ivory, and a white, long full sleeved version, tunic length in front and knee length in back. And the price?? Forget it!! The ivory version is almost $1800 and the long sleeve version is $3400. For that kind of money I could buy 1,000 yards of silk and make about 300 of these – IF I had or drafted a pattern.

What makes a designer garment special, besides the status associated with the name? Sometimes it’s a unique print that hone sewers can not duplicate. Sometimes it’s a unique construction feature. Solid color silk isn’t cheap, but is readily available, so it’s the unique neck/shoulder that makes this garment different.

Many unique designer styles are available as sewing patterns. Some are pretty much straight out of the envelope, differing from the pattern illustrations and photos only in fabric colors and prints or embellishments. Some designer garments can be duplicated by combining elements from two or more patterns – the bodice from one, sleeves from another, the collar from the third.

But not this one. I searched and searched. I posted on SPR, and got a few suggestions for similar blouses. It looked like I was going to have to draft no matter which pattern I chose. Drafting is not my favorite part of sewing. And I just finished drafting not one but two Leg O Mutton sleeves for another project. So I put the idea to one side.

Then, when looking for a vintage pattern for something else, I stumbled across Very Easy Vogue 8539. It had the gathers and tucks at the left shoulder and nice full sleeves. The illustration on the pattern envelope looks more like a jewel neck than a funnel or turtle neck. But, the technical line drawings show a slightly built up neckline, and the pattern neck is, indeed, built up. Near perfection!!

The only change I made was to eliminate the shoulder pad. I used an invisible zip.

I made it up in a stretch silk in Kelly Green from Fabric Mart a few seasons ago. I think it’s a pretty green for Christmas, and will work for the chilly days of early spring, too.

<b>Pattern Description: </b>
Loose fitting blouse has raised neckline with tuck variations, slightly extended shoulders, shoulder pads, back zipper and above elbow long sleeves. Narrow hems. A Mock wrap C Barrel Cuffs Purchased belt

<b>Pattern Sizing:</b>

<b>Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?</b>

<b>Were the instructions easy to follow?</b>

<b>What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?</b>
It was exactly what I was looking for!!!

<b>Fabric Used:</b>
Stretch Silk from Fabric Mart a few seasons ago

<b>Pattern alterations or any design changes you made:</b>
Well, the shoulder pads had to go. I used an invisible zip.

<b>Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?</b>
Yes and Yes


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McCall’s 7358 Wrap Top v 3

McCall’s 7358 is a fun, versitile wrap top. This is my third make of this pattern, and the one that most closely follows the pattern. My first two makes had some major design changes, but not this time.

My inspiration for the combination of floral fabric, pastel eyelet and polka dot bias tape came from a designer wrap top. When I saw the top I immediately thought to myself – Hey,  I have that pattern!

I had the floral in my stash. I think it’s cotton and it burns to ashes like cotton, but it’s kind of crisp and is quite shiny. I think it might actually be for curtains or pillows or something, but I like it as a top. The eyelet came from Ebay. I thought I could save a little money by buying wide eyelet trim instead of eyelet fabric by the yard. But, the wide trim wasn’t quite wide enough to cut the sleeve flounces, so I pieced them with a rather fat french seam.

<b>Pattern Description: </b> Very loose-fitting, wrap tops have self-lined yokes (cut on crosswise grain), gathers, belt loops, inside ties, narrow hem, and self-belt. Sleeveless, short sleeve with optional fold back cuff, or 3/4 length sleeves. Optional collar

<b>Pattern Sizing:</b> Misses

<b>Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?</b> Yes, except for the sleeve flounces and bias tape trim I added.

<b>Were the instructions easy to follow?</b> Yes. This is the third time I’ve made this pattern so I didn’t follow them closely this time

<b>What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?</b> I like the loose wrap style

<b>Fabric Used:</b> Cotton print from my stash. It might be a quilting cotton, or maybe meant for home decor.

<b>Pattern alterations or any design changes you made:</b> Added sleeve flounces and bias tape trim

<b>Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?</b> Yes and yes

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Butterick 6187 Empire Waist Ruffle Top

Empire waists are making a bit of a come back these days. They are flattering for those of us with thick waists and a bit of tummy fluff. This top has a nice empire waist, and a fun asymmetrical front. Inspired by a chiffon top I saw at (I think) the Neiman Marcus website.

Butterick 6187 had the key elements I was looking for. A nice empire waist, an asymmetrical pointed front, and a V neck.

NOTE When I photographed my finished make on my phone camera, the photo looked pretty good on my phone. But after downloading, it looks really washed out. I must get better photos, and will update when I do.

Sometimes my results seem a long way from the inspiration item. This is one of those times. The inspiration top has a jewel neckline with a button front, then a deep V in front edged in ruffles. It features an empire waist, with an asymmetrical pointed front, edged in more ruffles. The sleeves are long and fitted ending in a circular flounce.

Chiffon is lovely but rayon is much more modest and more comfortable to wear in muggy Cleveland weather. So, changing from green floral chiffon to black floral rayon is the first major chance. I don’t know where the rayon came from originally, it was in my stash. It’s heavier than challis, more like a shirting fabric. The print has a tropical feel.

Then, instead of the jewel neckline and deep V, I used an ordinary V neckline and added a circular flounce following the example in Fashion Sewing Secrets by Claire Schaffer. Basically, you start with a rectangle, slice it into thin slices that are not separate but still all connected, spread the sliced edge and shape the sliced pattern into an arc or circle. The inner edge of the arc or circle is sewn into the neckline.. Mine didn’t come out quite as full as I had hoped.

I shortened the sleeves from long to half, and used a shaped flounce instead of a full circle.

On the pattern envelope, the point at the bottom of the top looks like it sits nicely to one side in the photographs. But, on the line drawings, it looked oddly close to the center of the top. I didn’t want the point in the middle, so I checked the position of the point on the pattern piece by folding the piece in half along the center front. Sure enough, the point was very close to the center. I wanted it well to one side. So I moved it over about 6 inches. Unfortunately, my lefts and rights got mixed up again, and the point ended up on the opposite side of the top. But, it looks like it belongs there, so it’s all good.

I did a full bust adjustment by adding a dart at the sides. I was worried that too much fullness under the bust would look frumpy. I’ve reconsidered, I think it would look a little better if I had rotated the FBA dart intake into the gathers beneath the bust. And, that’s what I’m going to do for my next make on this pattern. I plan to make it into a tea length dress with circular flounces at the hem

The actual construction of this top went surprisingly smoothly. I cut everything out with no issues. I used the double thread method to gather the lower ruffle. I finished all the seams and raw edges with my serger.

Collar Flounce pattern piece

The inspiration top. At first glance it looks very different from mine, but they both share major design elements


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McCalls 7538 Knit Bandage Dress

This is a flattering, easy to make and comfortable to wear dress. With careful color choices, the bandage wrap style can make the waist look slimmer, creating an hourglass shape.

My inspiration for this dress were these two designs by Proenza Schouler. These Proenza dresses have a dramatic one bare shoulder look that I could not pull off. I knew mine would have both shoulders covered and two longish sleeves. The Proenza dresses have a peek-a-boo effect built into the wraps, my dress will provide full coverage. McCalls 7538 matched the wrap portion closely. When comparing my finished dress to the inspirational images, it looks like the wraps on the Proenza dresses are more vertical, and the ones in this pattern are a little more horizontal, but it’s not a barely noticeable difference. I copied the Proenza lettuce finish on the hem and sleeves. I think the Proenza dresses are made from a softer, less firm knit.

I chose an easy to sew rayon ponte in a middle blue. I wanted the bandages to be darker, so my waist would (in theory) look a little thinner. And I wanted an extra accent stripe. Once I settled on the middle blue and a dark blue, choosing the final strip was a lot harder. I planned to layer the thinner strips over the wide base bandage stripe, so the more layers, the thicker the bandage. Two layers of ponte, middle blue and dark blue, was already thick. Another ponte would have been too thick, so I started picking in my scraps and leftovers. I found two potential options, and settled on the striped ity knit.

This is an easy to make dress that went together quickly without fuss. But, the skirt was SHORT!! Usually I find myself cutting off inches at the hem before hemming. This time the skirt was cut just long enough, turning up anything more than an inch or so for hem would be too short. So, I borrowed from the inspiration design and used a lettuce finish on the hem and sleeves. I’ve never tried this kind of finish on a fabric as thick and firm as the ponte, but it worked.

The end result is a comfortable, flattering easy to wear dress. The rayon ponte is comfortable and wrinkle resistant, so it’s a good garment for traveling.

It’s also something that could be worn to the office under a jacket or cardigan. Take off the cardigan, and you’re ready to go out for dinner and drinks, or to the theater.

Pattern Description: Knit dress with Bandage Wrap design

Pattern Sizing: Misses

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Yes, except I used different color blocking

Were the instructions easy to follow?
Yes, they were clear, notches matched up, etc

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?
I like the wrap section at the middle. I did not like the length, this skirt is SHORT. I was a little surprised at just how short it was. I like my skirts to reach the knee at least, even with a lettuce hem that takes up no extra length the skirt is barely long enough. I’m also not thrilled with the way the shoulders/sleeves fit. The only reason I can move my arms is because the fabric stretches!!! When I first tried this dress on I was afraid that would be a big problem. I wore the dress anyway. It bothered me for a minute or two, by the time the evening was over I had forgotten it was a problem.

Fabric Used: Rayon/Lycra ponte knit, with contrast polyester ponte knit and a little bit of poly ity from my scrap bin

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: I used a different color blocking design and added extra strips on the “bandages”

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? Yes and yes. With careful color choices, this is a slimming style that’s comfortable to wear.

Inspiration dress one

inspiration dress two

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Fun Floral Knit Top

A sheer, chiffon Nichoals top for 385 inspired my floral sweater knit top. The designer top is lovely but SHEER! Way too sheer for me. Instead of chiffon, I picked a light sweater knit.

Designer - Nicholas Price- $385

Designer – Nicholas Price- $385

The inspiration top features decorative trim along the princess seam lines. As if the sheer chiffon did expose enough, the decorative trim is open cutwork.

Aside from the ephemeral sheerness, the inspiration top has some lovely style lines. The princess seam from the shoulder is slimming. The sleeve ends in a delicate double flute. The upper flute looks like it might be from a border print or matching print. A decorative band accents the flutes. Tiny ruffles edge the neck.

I had a piece of black open cutwork trim that I knew would look nice along the from-the-shoulder princess seams. I thought about lining the open trim with flesh colored mesh. Then I stumbled across an old scrap of fabric. The odd, not pink, not red, not brown color of the polished quilting cotton blended wonderfully with the roses on the sweater knit. So I cut strips of bias from the quilting cotton, and used them behind the openwork on the decorative trim.

The biggest obstacle proved to be finding a basic princess seam from the shoulder top. There were none in my stash. There were none on the commercial Big 4 sites. There were none on the smaller, independent companies sites or the overseas downloadable pattern sites. I did find a LOT of coats and jackets with a from the shoulder princess seam, but no tops or dresses.

Finally, I decided to start with a from the shoulder princess seam jacket pattern already in my stash.

Here is the Princess seam from the shoulder line, open at the top and bottom of the seam

Here is the Princess seam from the shoulder line, open at the top and bottom of the seam

The next problem was a pattern for the flute sleeves. My stash offered up caftan sleeves that should work.

But, I just didn’t have enough fabric to cut double flute sleeves. Back to the stash. This time I discovered a vintage pattern with different flounces on a short sleeve. So I switched to the vintage sleeve, with a double flounce. The inspiration sleeve is full length, mine is only 3/4.

The vintage pattern showed a plain short sleeve, and three different flounce options (but it did not show multiple flounces). I picked two of the flounces to imitate the double flute sleeve on the inspiration top. The under flounce is a semi-circle. The upper flounce is shaped and comes to a point at the elbow, exposing the under flounce.

The sleeve, both flounces, and the trim

The sleeve, both flounces, and the trim

I assembled the sleeves first, just to see how they would turn out.

I finished the hem of the sleeve flounces on the serger with a version of faux piping. I was too lazy to remove the right needle, so I used four threads instead of the three normally used for faux piping.

Edge of the Flounce

Edge of the Flounce

I used ordinary Maxi-lock thread in the needles, and black wooly nylon in the loopers. I reduced the stitch length to slightly less than 1. I tried hard to NOT stretch the edge into a lettuce leaf. I wanted a bit of flare, but not ruffles.

The trim is in place

The trim is in place

Next I basted the princess seams together along the front and back. I pinned the shoulder and side seams along the stitching lines. Then, I tried it on, expecting it to be a touch too big because it was loosely based on a jacket pattern. I was right. I took all the seams in just a touch, and it fit well.

The Finished Top - except for ribbon rose trim at the flounce

The Finished Top – except for ribbon rose trim at the flounce

The strip of quilting cotton I used behind my cutwork trim covered the garment seam. I sewed the front and back princess seams with the serger. Then, I topstitched the trim over the front princess seam lines.

Finally, I sewed the side seams with a serger, then inserted my pre-assembled sleeves.

Now, I had to decide what to do about the neck and the hem. Originally I thought I’d make a neck band and a small rolled hem. But, as I looked at the almost finished top, I realized the cutwork sections were really bulky. The cutwork trim was stiff, it was backed with quilting cotton, and layered over the top. I wasn’t sure a rolled hem would work!

The Final Touch - Ribbon Flowers

The Final Touch – Ribbon Flowers

I realized the finish I used on the sleeve hems didn’t require turning the edge under. I simply serged along the final edge over a single layer of fabric. The test run over a scrap of the trim came out beautiful, so I that’s how I finished the hem.

Finally, I decided to finish the neckline the same way. I worried that it might be tugged out of shape, so I reinforced it with a slim strip of fusible interfacing before edge stitching with the faux piping.

The Fabric Mart Sticky Tag

The Fabric Mart Sticky Tag

Still, it was missing something. It needed a touch of something on the sleeve. The inspiration garment had a band of cutwork just above the elbow where the upper flute started. I didn’t have enough trim for that. I tried a bow, then a piece of lace, and last, a tiny ribbon flower. The ribbon flower was just a touch too small by itself, and I had only 2 dark red ones, so I added a black one on each side.

Finished top back view

Finished top back view

Finished top front view Pants Style Arc Elle

Finished top front view Pants Style Arc Elle





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Designer Inspired

Fabric: White scuba techno-knit from Fabric Mart, blue and white striped jersey scraps from the stash

Pattern: Basic 3 piece tunic; front, back, long sleeves

Inspiration dress from Milly

Inspiration dress from Milly

I liked the fresh, almost nautical look of this Milly dress. I see a lot of chat about the new techno-knit and scuba knit fabrics and wanted to try some. Fabric Mart had a sale on scuba knits, I had the blue and white jersey knit in my stash leftover from another project.

My Tunic Version

My Tunic Version

The scuba knit has a firm, almost rubbery texture, and a bit of weight to it. The jersey is light, thin cotton. I decided the jersey by itself did not have enough body to mix well with the scuba knit. So I made the entire garment out of the white scuba knit and laid wide bands of the jersey over the scuba knit.

I used my basic tunic pattern with a jewel neck and long sleeves. I didn’t have a lot of the blue stripe, so my center band is narrower, starting below the bustline instead of just above it. The bands on the sleeves are narrower to match the body.

I cut the tunic out of white scuba knit. I sliced the pieces (front, back, sleeve) horizontally where I wanted the blue bands to start and end. I cut the bands from the blue stripe and pressed along one stripe. I layered the bands over the cut band sections  of scuba knit and based them in place. Then  I reassembled each piece and finally sewed all the pieces together.

Then I left it sit unfinished for several weeks, because I could not decide how to finish the neckline.  I finally decided the day I wanted to wear i, and settled on a slim, rolled edge because I didn’t think I had time to make a band.

The scuba knit is a little on the warm side. It was surprisingly slippery, and very stretchy. I’m not sure I like it and not sure I’ll use a scuba knit again.  I do like my finished top,.

Just for comparison, the Milly dress is available 5/15 at Neiman Marcus for $355. My top cost less than $15. I think of the jersey as “free”, because I bought and used it for another project, but if you insist on including it in the cost, my copy still cost less than $20.


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Designer Inspired Dress

My inspiration dress

My inspiration dress

I like to browse designer fashions on the net, then sew my own versions. One evening a blue and white Oscar de La Renta dress from the Neiman Marcus site inspired me. It has pleats down the front from yoke to hip, which  release into a full skirt (but a bit too short for me). Essentially, it’s a tube that expands and contracts and expands again from top to bottom.

A stretch sateen blue and white floral from my stash. This print includes green and the piece was too small anyway

A stretch sateen blue and white floral from my stash. This print includes green and the piece was too small anyway


I had a lovely blue and white floral print in my stash, but the piece was too small, just a little over 2 yards, and included green. The blue and white floral cotton sateen I found at Mood Fabrics has a lot more blue and a lot less white than the inspiration dress, but it’s in the same colors with the same spirit.


I posted my inspiration on  forum at Pattern Review, and was advised to start with pre-pleated fabric. It was great advice, and I took it.


I’ve made my fair share of pleated skirts, but never used pleats to make a fit and flare dress. I searched for a pattern to guide me. The closest I came was Vogue  1461. I disliked the boaty neck and short hem, but bought the pattern anyway for insight on how this dress is made. Hems are easy to move up and down, and boaty necklines aren’t hard to redraft. My inspiration dress had a yoke, the Vogue pattern did not, also an easy adjustment. I’ll replace the sleeves completely.

Final fabric choice, a cotton stretch stateen

Final fabric choice, a cotton stretch stateen


The Vogue instructions left me feeling a little dismayed. They drafted shape into each pleat. In other words, the pleats did not maintain a steady shape. They got narrower at the bust, deeper at the waist, then narrower again before releasing into the full skirt. Now, if I were making the dress for a body that fit Vogues measurements, that would be great! But, I am not. I am making it to fit my measurements, which are not what Vogue had in mind when they drafted this  ( or any) pattern.

This is the modified lining cut out of an old sheet, and fitted to me. I'll disassemble it and use it for my pattern

The mock up I’ll use as a pattern


I didn’t want to mess with putting shaping in pleats. I wanted to use a single panel each for the front and back of the dress, using the same number of pleats as the original dress. My idea was to push the shaping into the side and center back seams.


I decided to use the lining pattern pieces from the Vogue pattern as my base, and do my own thing with the outer layer. I traced the lining pieces onto an old sheet, cutting a yoke into the front section. I assembled the pieces and tweaked them to fit. Then I ripped it apart.

The pleats marked on the wrong side of the fabric

The pleats marked on the wrong side of the fabric


I measured the length from shoulder to hem and added a few extra “Just In Case” inches. Note: My just below the knee hem is considerably longer than either the Vogue pattern or the original inspiration dress. I cut two pieces of fashion fabric that same length and pleated them, leaving one large piece unpleated.


After tinkering a bit, I discovered the width of my yardstick was exactly half the width for each pleat. Using the yardstick and blue tailors chalk, I marked the pleats on the back of the two cut fabric pieces. Solid lines indicate fold lines, horizontal slashes indicated the gap between pleats.


The pleated fabric, showing both wrong and right sides

The pleated fabric, showing both wrong and right sides

I stitched the pleats down the entire length of the fabric sections, because I thought it would be easier to handle the fabric. First, I layed and cut the lower front out of one piece. Next, I laid both back pieces out on the second piece of pleated fabric, and cut them. I searched through my stash  of commercial and homemade patterns for a relatively narrow peasant sleeve, and checked to make sure the cap would fit the armhole. Then I cut the sleeves and bodice from the last unpleated piece of fabric. Finally, I cut a lining from the thin silk habotai I keep in my stash for dying scarves and veils.


Shoulder seams are often the first construction step, but I chose to sew the center back seam first. I attached the yoke to the lower front, and finally got to the shoulder seams. I used my serger to finish all the seam allowances before sewing the side seams. After I had the main sections together, I realized I forgot to add a zip! But, the fabric has a bit of stretch so I can still get it on and off.


Using dental floss and a wide zig zag stitch to gather the hem of the sleeve

Using dental floss and a wide zig zag stitch to gather the hem of the sleeve

I assembled the lining, and sewed it to the dress at the neckline. I turned my attention to the sleeves, finishing the raw edges before sewing them together, leaving about and inch unsewn at the bottom. I didn’t know if I would finish the sleeve with a narrow cuff, like the inspiration dress, or cheat and use a simple elastic casing. Finally, I inserted the sleeves into the dress.


I anxiously tried the dress on. And discovered that it was just too loose and baggy around the waist. As hard as I tried, I could not avoid it – I would have to add shaping to the pleats. At this point, the pleats still extended the full length of the dress.


Finished Sleeve Band

Finished Sleeve Band

I finished the sleeves with a narrow band and a small snap.


I put the dress on inside out, and carefully used safety pins to deepen the front pleats at the waist.  After restitching the pleats I tried the dress on again. Although I took in only a tiny bit on each pleat, it made a huge difference in fit. Bonus – I can still pull it on and off without a zip.


Finished Dress

Finished Dress

The neckline stubbornly refused to lie flat until I topstitched it into submission. The final step was marking the point where I wanted the pleats to release, and opening the seam from hem to release point.


I wore this dress to the theater to see Matilda the Musical. The play was great! The dress was wonderful – except I think the jewel neck is just too high for comfort. I think I will cut the neck lower, and use some scraps to make a thin bias binding.



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