Jaques Heim’s gorgeous Vogue Paris Original 1574 and the art of the bound buttonhole

So, being pregnant with our second child it seems rather pointless to do too much sewing…. I can hardly fit dresses to myself that will be worn in a years time… However, the catch is that when the new baby is born I am fairly sure that I will very little time for anything else but the baby! And I would like a new self-made dress for the christening.

For years I have been longing to make VPO 1574, a 1960s one piece dress by Jacques Heim- a 6 piece pattern. The dress is cut in one, shaped with darts and a second piece cut on the bias forms a roll collar. Well, I could always make up the muslin, I thought and then use that for fitting post baby- half the work would be done right…?


Little did I know how magical this dress would be- I loved the simplicity of the lines, the ease of the construction… it brought to mind the things I had read about Givenchy and his mentor, Balenciaga… the pursuit of simplicity, minimal seams etc… this dress was just a pleasure to put together. I love it when a designer almost makes origami from the cloth to create something beautiful.

The image shown here of the front of the muslin (with the line drawing/ back of the pattern) is simply pinned and partially basted. After a couple of days I was motivated to further action…. After all, I could always progress the project as far as possible and the stitch the final seams after the initial fitting after the baby is born… And there really is only one major seam at the back…

I cut the pattern from a beautiful lightweight, rich plum brown wool from which I have also cut Nina Ricci’s VPO 1125, of the same area (waiting to be seen up in my sewing room). The marking and seam lines have been thread basted. I am debating about a lining, a slip underneath would do nicely too.

The back of the dress is very pretty, low cut and secured by two buttons that form a subtle feature. It makes absolute sense to me, that these should be done with bound buttonholes. Whilst I have played around with bound buttonholes in the past I have never actually applied them to a garment – I have been too scared of messing up my project!


So, after three attempts, I think the third practice is there- I plan to pop the buttonholes into the dress before it is all finally sewn up… and given the dress is cut in one piece and a mistake could totally ruin things, I just hope it works out well. Below are pictures of the final practice swatch… the first one shows the thread traced markings (the red thread was used noting it was a practise and a bit easier to see until I figured everything out). The second shows the bound buttonhole sans threads… for anyone out there practising bound buttonholes/ attempting them, I did find that interfacing the back with silk organza yielded a less stiff result than iron-on interfacing and for that reason I preferred it (but you do need to take care to securely baste the organza swatch well at the back so it doesn’t shift when using your sewing machine. Off the top of my head, I think Claire Shaeffer recommends that in her book Couture Sewing.



Feeling very nervous about doing this on the actual garment! Wish me luck…!


Audrey Hepburn and the little black dress

We watched Breakfast at Tiffany’s yesterday… that is what we do when the household comes down with a bug- watch movies. My toddler was less than impressed and yet there I was, watching it for maybe the tenth time still oggling Audrey Hepburn’s fabulous wardrobe in the film (1961). A quick google and I learnt that her iconic dress from the first scenes of the film (where she wanders about the streets of 1960s New York to the strains of Moon River) went for almost one million US dollars in aid of charity.

So what was it about that little black number, designed by Givenchy that has really stayed with our collective consciousness through the decades? What makes it so appealing? Elegance. Glamour. Simplicity. All of these things were calling cards of Givenchy’s work. But I also think there is something about a little bit of shoulder… it is demure but alluring. Edgy, even.

Below are two designs I really like from the late 1960s and early 1970s- Butterick 5769 and Vogue 7528. Yes indeed, Vogue 7528 is the pattern famed to have once gone at an ebay auction for over $700. It was a look- not just a pile of paper- that someone was really prepared to pay for. I suspect a single bared shoulder taps into all of those romantic culturally entrenched references to the Goddesses of ancient Greece.


I couldn’t possibly talk about Breakfast At Tiffany’s however without mentioning another favourite pattern- one I doubt I will ever part with because I love the design, cut and construction: Pauline Trigere’s McCalls New York Designer Collection Plus pattern (N1010) which was produced in 1967. The bodice appears to be cut away in a style that flaunts the model’s toned shoulders.


The dress is lined and underlined with french darts and could be made in street or evening length. Why would you make this in anything but black? And it would have to be evening length… don’t you agree? Not sure who the model is but it was the perfect shot for this pattern cover. And it is definitely on my to-make-list… one of these days! Maybe after our second child is born, I will attempt it…!

I am quite partial to Trigere’s work… she also did a one shoulder dress, McCalls 7549 which boasts a more dramatic bodice, embellished with a bias bow. I have seen there dress made up to very pretty effect by other sewing enthusiasts on the blogosphere.

photo-5How do I look?” Asks Miss Golightly of her new friend “Very good” He replies  “I must say, I’m amazed.”

Asymmetrical dresses… a little shoulder… destined to be an enduring classic? What do you think?