As part of my SWAP 2008, I was inspired by a pale mauve linen dress, created for Jacqueline Kennedy by Oleg Cassini. She wore it to mass on Easter Sunday, April 14, 1963, in Palm Beach Florida. It was one of the many "casual" garments that Cassini designed for her, in addition to most of her formal clothing. I love the simple lines of this A-line sheath, punctuated by a quatrefoil motif on the upper bodice. It is casual sophistication to the nth degree. She wore this dress with a simple pair of pumps, white kid gloves and a lace mantilla and of course, she looked exceptionally beautiful.
I wanted this look for myself (minus the mantilla - my students think I'm weird enough already!), so I set out to produce my version of this classic dress.
Rather than using linen like the original piece, I choose a very dark chocolate wool crepe for my version, as I wanted to add to my winter work wardrobe. I picked up 5 yards of this fabric during the wool blowout at Fabric Mart and I wish I had purchased twice as much - it has a gorgeous weight and hand. For lining, I decided to go decadent, so I used a chocolate brown silk charmeuse, which was another fabulous Fabric Mart bargain.
I started with a vintage sheath dress pattern that mimicked the lines of the inspiration garment, McCall's 7888. The date on this pattern is 1965, so it comes from the same era. The neck on this pattern sits very close to the base of the neck, so I scooped out the front and back neck to more closely approximate the boatneck line that Jackie Kennedy wore so often. Since this dress was to be a cold weather garment, I decided to use the 3/4 length sleeve of view A, rather than going sleeveless.
After flat pattern measuring, I found that the shoulder was just right, the bust and waist was too big and the hip was too small (nothing new there!), so some adjustments were necessary.
To address the bust, I did a quicky small bust adjustment (SBA) to the princess seam. This entails shaving off a quarter inch from the "bust bulge" on the side front piece and tapering to nothing above and below. See the pencil drawn line on the pattern piece to the right. To remedy the too-large waist, I took it in by a 1/2" on both the back and side front pieces, effectively removing 2" total in this region. Last, but not least, I add a 1/4" to the hip on the back piece only, as I need the extra fabric in back to go around my large caboose!
So, the fabric is picked and the pattern is primed. In my next installment, I will show you the finished garment (inside and out), discuss how I created the nifty quatrefoil embellishment and let you in on why the title of this post is "A Pleasant Surprise."