Sunday, July 31, 2011

Mod Arrow Dress Project: Simplicity 8682 from 1969

A dress that I was inspired by-- it was listed on
eBay by "meat-market" of Meat Market Vintage

Another inspirational arrow dress design that I found online

Truly a mod arrow dress-- a major inspiration

I've been SO bad about posting this month! I think the summer heat here in Atlanta has sent me into a warm, gooey coma. Now, with this post, hopefully I can emerge from it.

Previously, I posted two examples of felt (raw edge) applique skirts I made. My goal was to make a dress eventually and I used the skirts as warm-ups. This post is dedicated to the first felt applique dress I have made.

This is one of those hell projects. The ones that you toil over and debate over for days. Before this dress, it had been a long time since I had one of "these" projects. Oh well, at least I am *relatively* happy with the result. It's always worse when you're totally unhappy with the final product.


1.) FABRIC: I used a vintage green polyester that I bought on eBay. It had a significant amount of stretch. If I could do it again, I would not applique onto anything with this much stretch. It was harder to keep the felt in place when I was sewing and I met up with Mr. Seam Ripper several times trying to get it right. Just when I think I'm breaking up with him, he pulls me back in!

Mr. Seam Ripper-- doesn't he look adorable...err this portrait?

2.) FIT: This dress marked a significant change in terms of fit. I ended up going with the 32.5 bust pattern instead of the 34. I had been wanting to try it for a while because I kept getting dresses that were significantly too big when I used the size 34. I have to say that the 32.5 is actually much closer to my size. I'm not sure why I was under the impression that I needed a 34. I will say that when I measure my bust, it measures 34, which might be the source of my mistaken impression. However, I'm thinking that the size issues relates to two factors: a.) most of the fabrics that I use have stretch so measurements can be smaller and still stretch to fit nicely; and b.) vintage patterns have more ease than I prefer and/or realized. So, my bust is bigger than 32.5 but both stretch and ease make the fit better than the 34.

Before hemming & tailoring

Another issue with fit related to the shape of the dress. I keep oscillating between liking and not liking the a-line shape. I'm starting to think that I do like the a-line shape, but I don't like for it to be as pronounced as it was in the 60's. I feel like I look larger than I am when the a-shape is too pronounced. I feel that it distorts my proportions, and since I used to be significantly overweight and was teased for it, I am very sensitive to this. On the other hand, a slight A looks nice to me and has a good flare. So, trying to get the a-shape to be right has been a problem for me. With this particular dress, I felt the a-shape was too pronounced. My husband commented that it was making me look too much like a bell and I had to agree.

These photos show the dress prior to my de-emphasizing the A-shape. They also show 2 of the designs I contemplated-- the designs were pretty cool
but the shapes were too big which was bad for my proportions.

So, I ended up finally (after so much deliberation, I wanted to scream) deciding to de-emphasize the a-shape. The only problem is I de-emphasized it too much. I made the bottom of the dress too tight to my legs when in reality, I should have left a little more flare. It has more a tight, wiggle dress bottom, which I don't prefer for this style. I do know why I made such a stupid error. I was so exhausted with this dress (i.e. due to the shape problems and some other issues that I will get too later). I should NOT tailor something when I am exhausted. I get too zealous like a scissor-happy hair-dresser. Unfortunately, I couldn't fix the issue because I had already cut off the excess seam edges after I brought them in. And so it quote Vonnegut.

This is how the dress looked after I decided to make
the A-shape less pronounced

3.) DESIGN: I spent WAY too much time deliberating about how to arrange the arrows on this dress. Even before I decided to de-emphasize the A-shape, I spent about 3 days (maybe a grand total of 8 hours) trying to decide how the design should look. I experimented with circles, arrows, question marks, etc. Luckily, I was able to use my computer to take a picture of the dress without any design and then experiment digitally with how the design should look. I also used cutout paper templates for some of my design experimentation. I'm fairly pleased with the design I came up with. I think the proportions of the shapes are correct and that the layout looks cool.
This was before I added the arrow applique but after I added the ribbon trim

4.) APPLIQUE OF FELT AND RIBBON: As I said earlier, appliquing felt onto a stretchy fabric was a bit challenging. Also, challenging was sewing the white ribbon trim onto the dress bottom. I guess my mistake came when I assumed that you could just pin the ribbon trim to the dress and sew it on. Not really. It ended up looking kind of bubbly in some spots, where the ribbon wasn't laying flat. My stitching also ended up looking goofy, because I made several rows of oddly placed stitches in a last-ditch effort to get the ribbon to lay down and stop looking all wrinkly. My husband claims it doesn't look that bad. It's kind of an eye-sore, IMO.

The finished product-- click for closeup

5.) THE FADE SNAFU: Oh and before I forget, I must mention that the vintage fabric I used happened to have a long faded strip running down the middle of the right side of the fabric (at the fabric's natural fold). And after I started making the dress, I realized this and had to reverse the entire thing, so that I would be using the wrong side of the fabric, which didn't have the fade stain. Otherwise, I would have had a faded streak running down the middle of my dress! Luckily, you couldn't really tell the difference between the right side and the wrong side. It was irritating to reverse the dress, though, because I had to transfer my dart markings to the other side of the fabric.

So, overall, this was one challenging project but I did learn a lot from it and my follow-up projects ended up being more successful as a result. I do like the look of the dress, but I do wish I had been more careful when I tailored it, and I do wish that the ribbon trim didn't look so wonky! You can't really tell from the pictures but trust me, it looks pretty crazy!

Sigh...I had such high hopes for using ribbon in my designs but now I'm not so sure.

Happy sewing!


  1. Love the fun color of the dress!

  2. I love the colors and how creative and daring you are with your appliques.
    If the hem of the dress is curved that may be a cause of the ribbon problem too, as the ribbon won't curve smoothly. Why not try using bias tape? You can buy single fold bias tape in many colors and widths or you could cut bias strips of whatever fabric you want. Bias tape will curve and shape better than ribbon.

  3. Thanks, bloggymom!

    And thanks for the compliment and the tip about bias tape, Bry. I hadn't thought about that but it makes sense since bias tape is made to curve. I will definitely have to try that.

  4. Hi Astrid,
    I have been trying to access your blog but it says it's by invitation only now - ! Can you let me know how to get an invite? Thanks -

  5. Oh, dang, Ingore that last comment... it's Sew Retro I'm trying to access... never mind :)

  6. Oh okay-- that's cool! Have fun on Sew Retro

    : - )

  7. Were you able to fix the ribbon and make it lay flat, Astrid? I would have made the same assumption, so now I am wondering for my future projects how to apply ribbon flat!

  8. did you make the felt arrow appliques yourself? I never thought about using felt... I suppose that wouldn't unravel like fabric, though.