Finished Objects: Vionnet Abomination–Er, Attempt–#1

I finished what I have affectionately termed the squid Vionnet, although not to my liking and, as per usual, at the last minute. I spent a month working on digitally drafting the pattern so that I could make an epic Halloween dress, then life got crazy, then I couldn’t get my printer to print the pattern correctly, then time got short and no muslin was made. I used my semi-crappy black $2/yard clearance shantung because I wanted to keep the stakes low but still have a slim chance of resulting in a pretty dress. My measurements of the flat pattern did not translate well into the sewn garment, alas, which necessitated some major gusset type side insertions on the fly. These insertions threw off the lovely hang of the garment, but I used an Old Hollywood trick and corrected the fit on my body, which required some seam ripping myself out of it later. Alas, no pics. (Is it just me or are 30something mothers frequently absent from the photo documentation of family life? Too old / gen x for unabashed selfie taking, and usually too busy trying to make sure the youngun isn’t swinging from the chandelier to actually look in the direction of a camera…)

The squid dress in theory:


The squid dress in 2d theory.
88 pages. This is why I buy sugarcane environmental happy hippie paper by the case.
The squid dress in post-wear lumpy reality.


Be it ever so humble, it does represent a moral victory of sorts. I cranked this sucker out in about eight hours sewing time and, had the fit been correct initially, it would have been pretty amazing. It didn’t even disintegrate! So let’s call this a muslin. I love the sleeves. I couldn’t really see it from the pattern pieces, but upon assembly it was essentially a kimono or dropped shoulder sleeve in the front with a horizontal tuck to give the neckline some drape, and a raglan type join at the back.  I plan to reattempt it as a blouse, with slightly less extravagantly eveningwear type Cersei sleeves, because the design itself is lovely. Consider me even more of a Vionnet fangirl after actually trying to sew her pattern.

1930s Fashions: Mode Illustree and Vionnet Designs


Anyone ever sewn from a Mode Illustree pattern sheet? Wowza. This has got to be a great brain-aging preventative if ever there was one.

Mode Illustree was a French fashion/home magazine published weekly from the 1859 until at least the 1930s–I haven’t seen any later examples, but they may very well be out there. I was lucky enough to find a few with the original pattern sheets, which are a large sheet with all the pattern pieces traced on top of one another with different lines. A bit of a tangle to wrap the head around. I guess the idea is to trace them onto paper and voila, you have your pattern.

It has taken me roughly three days, but I have finally gotten it drafted (digitally!) to the point of being ready to print it out and test it. The patterns for Mode Illustree are all listed as size 44, which at least in this 1930 version is for a 70cm waist, 94cm bust and 100cm hip (27.5in waist, 37in bust, 39.4ish waist). That waistline is *not* gonna fly, but we’ll see how it goes.

My other current perseverations: pondering the mysteries of the math behind radial grading systems (how does Lutterloh do it??! and how does one create a pattern that can be drafted in this way? *and* how does one blend sizing in this system?) There is a little bit about this in the book The Victorian Tailor but I have been too scattered to really focus on that book like it deserves. And ever since witness2fashion’s wonderful posts on Vionnet, I’m planning on trying a Vionnet (for a Halloween costume wedding reception dress!):


I love so much about this dress. I love it’s Cersei-esque I-will-cut-you style feminity. It’s flowing and feminine without being revealing. Which means a) I won’t be bitterly cold and b) may not even have to worry about shaving my legs and c) I run zero risk of wardrobe malfunction. For a form fitting flowing dress like this, though, some homemade Spanx might be a necessity. But I digress.

This is from The Bunka Fashion College’s book on Vionnet, which gives diagrams that can be enlarged to draft patterns for 20+ designs based off of actual garments. I have vain aspirations of working my way through it to learn everything I can from hands-on practice with her technique, but given my sewing ADD in this post alone, it’s unlikely that will ever happen. (I go from obsessing on 1860s sleeves to 1930s cowls to 1970s tunics over the course of a day. Is there a name for this obsessive interest roulette wheel my consciousness turns on?) But the book is amazing. It’s in Japanese only, but the illustrations are remarkably clear.

The pattern pieces for this one are mindboggling:


I’m looking forward to trying it. Has anyone tried any Vionnet type designs? I’d love to hear about your experiences!