Curvy Pencil Skirt, Fabric, Sewing, Vogue Sewing Patterns, Wrap Dress

Sewing: Experimenting with different fabrics

IMG_1607I was driving through Kenilworth to a business meeting when I spotted a fabric shop that I had not been in – ooooh the excitement!  I’d make time to pop in on may way back of course.  They have some lovely fabrics, very nicely displayed – it drives me mad if shops have them all piled up and you can’t see what they have, not so at Karen Delahunty – all very nicely displayed and grouped together in fabric types.  My eyes whizzed round looking for bright colours and I found this fabulous piece of cotton spandex.   It has two of my favourite colours within in it – a cool pink and red – it’s slightly orange, but as it is not the main colour it still works for me.  I love the pattern – quite dramatic and abstract – I’m not so keen on definite florals, but I like this one.  Now what to make with it?  I had gone in with the idea of finding something to make a short-sleeved wrap dress, so I was really looking for jersey.  None of their jerseys worked for me, so I wondered whether this fabric might work as a wrap dress.  It has some stretch and it drapes well.  I checked with Karen and she thought it would work too, so I went for it.

As this fabric isn’t as drapey as jersey, I decided to take about an inch out of each side seam as the skirt of the Vogue V8379 has a pretty full skirt.  This cotton spandex fabric is much stiffer so I thought this would work better.

IMG_1630We were off for a weekend away last weekend, so I cut out the fabric and added all of marks for pleats and tailors marks – I used a washable felt-tip for speed, rather than tailors tacks.  I then made up the bodice in a couple of hours one evening and then finished off the skirt, attaching it to the bodice the next evening.  The finishing off isn’t great as I rushed to get it ready to take away with me – I didn’t actually end up wearing it, but I did put it on to show Nige and Gracie and they love it!

Its first outing was to the Cancer Research UK Charity Fashion Show arranged by my friend Ann Ballinger at the gorgeous Mallory Court.  Fashions were provided by Revolve – there were some gorgeous clothes and the models did a great job.  The only thing is, now I am making my own wardrobe, I only covet the complex designs that I don’t yet have the skills to make!  I loved many of the Joseph Ribkoff designs and there were some gorgeous sequinned evening dresses too.

Caroline and Lyn

Here I am with my lovely friend Caroline at the fashion show.

My second rush-job was another curvy pencil skirt.  I really wanted to wear my pussy-bow blouse to the First Impressions consultant’s spring forum.  The first curvy pencil skirt I made is now too warm to wear – it is in a wool mix and quite a heavy fabric.  I decided to make a navy skirt to go with a pair of wedge sandals now that the sun is shining and the temperature has heated up.

I bought some fabric in a tight weave, medium weight navy blue.  I whipped this up in two evenings too.  I cut it out and sewed the darts one evening and finished it off the next.  I didn’t line this one as it doesn’t really need it and of course, in the interest of speed, I didn’t really have time!

My jobs this weekend will be to go back and neaten up some of the seams, otherwise they might fray in the wash!  Sewing Bee speed it wasn’t, but quite quick for me as a novice!

I love the fact that I have pretty much made an entire new wardrobe and I wore something I made every day this week!  My next little challenge to myself is to make enough clothes that I have a total self-made mix and match wardrobe.  The thing that I could really do with adding right now is a light-weight coat – something to add as an extra layer when there is still a chill in the air, but it is not warm enough for a heavy coat.  My gorgeous Desigual mac has seen better days unfortunately, so that is going in the ‘up-cycle’ pile – I am sure I can make something new out of it as I absolutely love the fabric.  If you know of any patterns that would work, please let me know!  I am looking for a simple style that is fitted in at the waist and I will make it in an interesting fabric.

Happy weekend


DvF, Lyn Bromley, Women's Style, Wrap Dress

Women’s Style: Wrap Dress

There is a well known misconception that Diane von Furstenberg invented the wrap dress.  DvF’s dresses started to appear in the early 70’s, but there had already been a version of what we now know as the wrap dress in 1930’s by Elsa Schaiparelli and 1940’s by CSchaiparelli wraplare McCardell.  Here’s the Schaiparelli wrap – very elegant and something I may try to re-create myself as a ball gown.

Lyn DvF Wrap DressThe difference between these early dresses and DvF’s is the fabric type and the length.  DvF favours knee length and the fabric is famously figure-hugging jersey.  I am lucky enough to own a DvF in a vintage pattern.  It is 100% silk jersey and I absolutely love wearing it.  Here I am at an event we exhibited at back in 2011 with longer hair!  I looked long and hard before I decided upon this dress.  I don’t often buy designer because I think there is a great variety of garments available without having to take out a small mortgage to buy them!  Don’t get me wrong, I love them and really enjoy looking at them, finding out about them and using them as inspiration, but I want a hard wearing day-to-day wardrobe, rather than one full of designer pieces.  So I really took my time selecting this dress.  I do absolutely love it and it has really lasted well.  I think cost-per-wear must be down to pence by now!  Very sadly it has started to rot under the arms, probably from deodorant, so I am looking into ways of fixing that as the rest of the dress is still in perfect condition.  Let me know if you have any ideas!

Back to DvF – she attributes her divorce to the design of the wrap dress.  It was apparently created in the spirit of allowing women to enjoy their sexual freedom.  I guess that must be the clingy form-hugging jersey.  She originally created it as a wrap top and separate skirt and was quite astounded by the reaction when she put the two together and created a dress.

The dress has even been credited with being the symbol of women’s liberation in the 70’s – quite a claim.

The style of the wrap is perfect for the ‘hourglass’ figure.  It’s for the woman who has a slim waist compared to hips.  It doesn’t work for the ‘straight’ body shape, where there is little or no difference between the waist and the hips.  The wrap creates a focal point at the waist, emphasising the slimmest part of the body.  It also creates a lovely ‘v’ at the neck.  If a round neck suits you better, you can always add a camisole underneath, which also creates the extra security of a higher neckline.  Worn without a camisole, it can sometimes expose more flesh than you would like.  (Depending upon the cut of the dress).  This may be acceptable for a night out, but for work it is advisable to err on the side of caution.

It comes in many different fabrics, they all behave differently, so pick wisely.  There are short and long sleeved versions and they vary in length from a shorter, tunic style to floor length as in the Schaiparelli version above.  There is also a version with a collar, or the collarless version above.

Whichever your preference, there will be wrap dress to suit your taste.

Lyn Bromley MFIPI, ACMA –  Managing Director, First Impressions

 Lyn Bromley is Managing Director of First Impressions Training Ltd and a Master of The Federation of Image Professionals International. (FIPI)  She is also Director of Regional Events at FIPI and a leader of Achiever’s Academy for Women.

Please contact us if you would like to know more about our programmes, bespoke training and workshops or one-to-one coaching. 

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Lyn Bromley, Sewing, Wrap Dress

Sewing: Wrap Dress No 2

There have been lots of questions about the dress I made this weekend, so thought I would add a few details for you.

The pattern I used was Vogue V8379.  I made dress B with longer sleeves.  I personally prefer the dress with no collar, but as it is winter, I wanted the longer sleeves.  The short sleeved version would be a little easier as one of the only tricky parts to the pattern was figuring out how to stitch the sleeve band and attach it to the dress!

This is only my second attempt at the pattern and the first on my own.  You can read all about the first attempt in Lyn Learns to Sew.  I decidIMG_1003ed to try this again so I could be sure that I had understood what I learned last weekend with Kate.  I always preach to my own students that it’s all well and good learning, but the key is to put it into practice as quickly as possible to ensure that you have really understood it and that the learning is strengthened and enhanced.  There is specific research to show that this is true by Ebbinghaus  called the forgetting curve.  The concept is that each time you reinforce learning you forget a little less each time until you get to a point where you remember it all.

Kate had given me a piece of fabric to practice with and I really liked it!  It has all the shades of colour in it that I like and that suit me and unbeknown to Kate, I do like animal print, although it is often tricky to find in cooler shades.  It is widely available in warmer shades – think African grassland in yellow tones, rather than the cooler blue tones of the British Countryside!

Here is a close-up of the fabric.  It’s a jersey with a good amount of stretch.  I would guess a cotton/viscose mix.  It was easier to work with than the IMG_1006bamboo/elastane mix of the first dress.  The bamboo was much softer and more delicate, so a nicer feel on the skin, but more difficult to handle when sewing.  I had to use a special jersey needle in the sewing machine for the bamboo, but with this fabric, a regular needle was fine.

The first challenge was to pin all the pattern pieces on to the fabric to make sure I could fit them all on with the grain line going in the right direction!  I did have to re-pin a couple of times before I was happy with it.  This was an early attempt with far too much space between the pieces!  I started on Saturday late afternoon and had cut out all of the pieces and sat adding tailor’s tacks and basting whilst watchinIMG_0990g The Voice on Saturday evening!  By Sunday morning, I was ready to start sewing.  When I have a new challenge I like to get on with it.  I enjoy doing it, but always like to get it finished so I can see the final piece!  So, rather than having a Sunday morning lie in, I was up and sewing early.

I found the majority of the construction pretty straightforward – it is classified as a ‘very easy’ pattern to follow!  The only pitfall on the bodice is getting the slit for the belt to go through on the right side, which I failed to do!  The dress is symmetrical, so it didn’t actually matter, but having around six wrap dresses already, when I tried it on with the slit on the left, it just didn’t feel right, so with a small alteration, the belt slit is now on the correct side!  Kate did warn me about this and I thought I had done it correctly, obviously not, so do take care with this.  I had made up the bodice in about an hour and a half, including facings, so I was pretty pleased with that.  The skirt was really easy.  I had cut out the skirt back on the fold, so it reduced the need to sew an extra seam, so two seams later and attaching the skirt to the bodice and I was almost there.  I had to pause here to get ready to go to visit my parents!  My Mum is a sewer too – she taught me originally when I was about 11 I think.  I used to make all my school skirts and tube skirts in lurid 1980’s shades!  I have my Mum’s old sewing machine, which we realised is about 39 year’s old.  She has a much newer one, so I thought I would take the sleeves over to finish off there as I remembered them being a bit tricky!


This is how the sleeve with the sleeve band attached should look.  I was pleased to have my first dress to check as a guide.  The pattern, in my opinion, is lacking in it’s description here.  It took me some time to work out whether it was the right way around, so it was good to be able to double check it with Mum too!  Even so, I did manage to sew it on wrong and Mum unpicked it for me while I did the next one!!  I am really pleased with the finished look – it is definitely better IMG_0996than my first attempt!

Here is the  finished dress.  It doesn’t really go with my biker boots, but I was still at Mum’s.  I shall have fun working out which accessories to wear with it.  It’s a pretty busy pattern, so fairly plain I’m thinking.  I may try to find some blue tights to match the pattern on the dress!  The only modification I may make is to do something with the facings.  They are not sitting properly and I think they will annoy me if they keep popping out!  Happy sewing to my friends who try this!