My “Blanche Devereaux” Lingerie for the Sew Golden Girls Challenge

I just turned 60 recently and so I decided I just had to channel my inner Blanche Devereaux for the Sew Golden Girls challenge on Instagram, hosted by @stitch_collective, hashtags #sewgoldengirls or @SewGoldenGirls. I needed a boost of Blanche’s sass and spice!

Kwik Sew 3264

I have always admired Blanche’s collection of flamboyant, colorful silk robes on The Golden Girls. I’ve had this silk charmeuse in my stash for a couple of years. I bought it right before a local independent fabric store (Betty’s Fabrics) closed after 45 years in my town. It was so sad to lose another fabric store that carried loads of apparel fabric.

I used Kwik Sew 3264, View B. Although this pattern is designed for heavyweight stretch knits, I used the woven silk without any problems in sizing. Robes are generally oversized by design.

This pattern is a simple style with just a band around the neckline edge which made it quicker to sew since there was no collar to fuss with.

How ever, this 100% silk charmeuse FRAYS! It frayed immediately after cutting and frayed more and more each time I handled it. ACK! I wish I’d had the foresight to add an additional inch to all the seam allowances.

I swear I just breathed on it and this happened!

I figure I lost 1/4″ to 1/2″ on some of the seam allowances due to excessive fraying. Thank heaven robes are generally oversized so the fit wasn’t affected. I did add stabilizing tape by Sewkeyse’s to the shoulder seams. Since I used french seams throughout, the tape disappeared nicely into the encased seam.

For the nightgown, I used Vogue 9015, view C. I had just enough of the colorful silk for the robe so for the nightie, I used a black silk charmeuse in my stash that was leftover from lining a previous project.

Vogue 9015

It was a very quick bias cut gown. I just searched through my bits and pieces and found a piece of lace just long enough for the neckline.

I tried to do the 80s Big Hair I wore back in the day.

I did french seams on the gown too. I was more careful and went much more slowly on these french seams since all them were on the bias. I didn’t have any lace for the hem, so I just stitched a narrow rolled hem.

“Thank you for being a friend,
Traveled down the road and back again,
Your heart is true,
You’re a pal and a confidant…”

Golden Girls Sewing Challenge Inspiration

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There is a Golden Girls themed sewing challenge for the month of September currently on Instagram, hosted by @stitch_collective, hashtag #SewGoldenGirls.

I want to channel my inner Blanche Devereaux and her fabulous collection of sexy, flowing robes and nightgowns. Blanche was an older woman who oozed confidence, could flirt unabashedly, was straight forward about what she wanted and never apologized about her sexuality. She’s the example of what an adventurous older woman could be.

The actress playing Blanche, Rue McClanahan, had written into her GGs contract that she got to keep all of Blanche’s clothes, many of which were created and sewn by the show’s designer, the Emmy winning Judy Evans. Very smart of Rue to insist on that. Sadly Rue passed in 2010. Many of her memorabilia from her long acting career was auctioned (the Estate of Rue), like this gorgeous hand-painted silk robe, that sold for $5000!

Why oh why didn’t the show’s creators take more high quality stills of Blanche’s wardrobe?!?!? Or all the girls in their character’s clothes? Here’s Blanche wearing the above robe in Season 4, episode 18 called “Fiddler On The Ropes”.

As well as the character was written, Blanche wouldn’t have worked if not for Rue McClanahan’s brilliant performance. Originally she was cast as “Rose” and Betty White as “Blanche”. This was based on roles they previously played; Betty had portrayed the over-sexed Sue Ann Nivens on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and Rue co-starred as the sweetly bubble-headed Vivian Harmon on Maude. Thankfully for us, the actresses didn’t want to be typecast and switched roles shortly before filming began. 

I love this robe with it’s four-square dot pattern. It’s part of a three-piece ensemble of dressing gown, a vest attached to a long-sleeve blouse by snaps, and matching pants.

And I love the bright colors of this robe. I remember seeing it in several episodes paired with different nightgowns. Blanche wore so many bright and beautiful colors on the show.

Blanche Forever!! You can see the ginormous 1980s style shoulder pads on this white, pink and seafoam green number. I love all the scalloped details on the collar and cuffs, but giant shoulder pads in a robe? I’ll pass.

This is not sleepwear and off topic, but I love this red beaded evening ensemble:

Blanche: “I swear with God as my witness, I will never pick up another man!… in a library… on a Saturday… unless he’s cute… and drives a nice car… Amen.”

Vogue 8997 Dress

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I made this as part of Sian’s (of Kittenish Behavior) Youtube sew along. I like sew alongs and challenges. It gives me the extra incentive to sit down to my sewing machine. And I really needed the boost this time. I recently had two dismal back-to-back sewing failures (which will NEVER be revealed here, they were that BAD!) and my disappointment sent my sewing mojo crashing down through the floor.

This is a Vogue Easy Options pattern. The pattern came with “Custom Fit” bust pattern pieces in A, B, C, D cup sizes and, Yay, saved me from having to do a FBA. I used this pretty rayon challis by Art Gallery, the Magnolia Study Silkroad collection. It’s a very lightweight rayon with a soft, fluid drape. It is fully lined with bemberg rayon.

Sian’s sew along is very helpful. She quickly veers off from the instructions in the envelope. She used a method I also prefer to use when sewing sleeveless bodices together. It gives a cleaner finish to the armholes and shoulder seams. But make sure you have double checked the fit of the of the shoulders because there is no adjusting once it is done. She also likes to sew up the skirt part first so it will have time to drop on the bias parts. I like to hang my skirt parts early too, but I don’t sew it up first. I cut out the skirt sections and hang them with a trouser’s hanger, ideally overnight or longer. Since I usually cut out on one day and sew the next, this works out for me.

I usually have to make a short waist adjustment but I risked not doing this time and it worked out well for me. If you have a longer waist, Sian shows you how to make the adjustment on her video. I did, however, pinch out a one inch in a wedge from the center back seam because of my sway back. I also added height to the back neckline because otherwise it would be too low on me and I wanted to make sure my bra strap didn’t show.

I’m very short from my shoulder to waist and I did have to pinch out ½ inch from the armscye at the top of princess seam to prevent the gaping I usually get in the front of armhole. 

I did french seams on almost all the seams in the skirt except the center front and the lower center back seam. Those I finished with Hug Snug seam binding. I didn’t french seam the bodice since it is fully encased with lining. Now Sian seems to leave her entire lining to hang free, meaning she didn’t attach her bodice lining at the waist. I don’t mind hand-sewing/tacking the bodice lining down at the waistline seam, and then attaching the skirt lining by hand.

I’m really happy that I have a win here with this dress. I needed something to come out well after my previous fails. I love that this skirt has just enough twirl without flying straight up to waist level like full circle skirts do. That matters a lot to me when out dancing!

Another Simplicity 8849

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This is my second Simplicity 8849. I made the first one last summer and liked it so much I just had to sew another this year. I don’t often use patterns more than once but I recently watched Alisa of Thoughtful Creativity – CRAFT, SEW, DIY on Youtube about why you should make each pattern 3 times. I’m usually a “one and done” in my approach to sewing patterns but Alisa is changing my mind about that.

This time I used a soft medium-weight to almost heavy-weight cotton from Gorgeousfabrics.com.

My usual fitting adjustments are: princess seam style FBA, pinched out an inch along the front armscye and shortened the waist length by half an inch. I added snaps on the inside of the button placket between the buttons to prevent gaping.

Since the cotton is fairly heavy-ish, I chose not to use interfacing because I didn’t want it to become too stiff. I did use tear-away stabilizer on the buttonholes to add strength there. The facings seem just fine without interfacing.

The only pattern matching I did is with the pockets. I don’t like pockets to stand out on my Pear shaped hips.

I am really pleased with this second version. Maybe I’ll make a third like Alisa suggests?

Bertie is getting so big. He is 6 months old now yet still has his fluffy baby fur.

My little sewing buddy, Bertie

McCall’s 6554 Fashion Star Dress

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This is another of my UFOs (unfinished objects). I cut out this Cotton & Steel rayon (one of their Amalfi floral designs) two summers ago.

The description on the envelope of McCall’s 6554 says this dress has “a close fitting, lined bodice, a raised waist, skirt with front pleat and underlay and self-belt”. Close fitting? I usually use size 14 in the Big 4, but I had cut the size 12, possibly because that’s where my ever fluctuating weight was at 2 years ago. I should have cut it down further to size 10. There was an abundance of ease!

Trying to pose like the pattern model

I tend to assemble in a different order than the instructions. I waited to do the side seams until after I attached the skirt front to the bodice front, and the skirt backs to the bodice back. Then I have one long side seam that I can adjust and fine-tune the fit. And I did have to keep trying it on and taking in the side seams more again and again. I don’t have any idea how much I took out altogether.

Side seam with the skirt, bodice and bodice lining in one long piece

I prefer to do french seams in rayon, but with the amount of adjusting I had to do, I had to resort to the serger.

The dress is still very loose. “Close fitting bodice” my aunt Fanny!

Apparently I didn’t have enough fabric. Not sure what I was thinking 2 years ago. Note to self: avoid generating UFOs in the future. By necessity I left off the skirt underlay and just did a pleat. There also wasn’t enough fabric for the belt and I remember I was just barely able to squeeze out a kind of bow for the front to fake it. I lined the entire dress with bemberg rayon. I also applied a soft fusible interfacing to the neckline for some body since the challis is super soft and limp.

Bertie the kitten investigating the photo session. He’s just on the cusp of growing out of kitten hood [sigh]. Those are true vintage Bakelite bracelets I’m wearing. The blueberry necklace is from Summer Blue Jewelry.

It’s too bad all the side seam adjustment slightly distorted the bodice fit. It’s a cool and breezy dress, just right for the triple digit (Fahrenheit) heat where I live. It will get some wear this summer but it’s not one of my favorite recent makes.

ACK!!! And I still have a box of UFOs!! Not sure why I’m smiling about it…

Surplice Dress from Gertie’s Ultimate Dress Book

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This pretty summer dress is from “Gertie’s Ultimate Dress Book” by Gretchen Hirsch, the Floral Surplice Dress on starting on page 151.

I love it that Gertie set up her patterns to be mix-n- match. I chose the surplice bodice and the full circle skirt. I paired it with a Gertie designed rayon challis fabric with a lovely soft  hand and drape that I got from Joann’s ages ago, when they still carried her fabric line. I am royally miffed they don’t carry her fabrics anymore in the US. I would totally go to Australia just to raid their Spotlight stores for her fabric.

Worn sans petticoat

This has been in my UFO (unfinished object) pile since September 2018, when I tested the muslin and cut out the fabric in one of Gertie’s workshops in Beacon NY. It was my second dress in that session and we ran out of time. I was glad to be able to utilize Gertie to get the bodice fit just right. I just thought I would get to it sooner when I got home.

I had to do a full bust adjustment (FBA), pinch out a 1 inch slice in the armscye and do a sway back adjustment to the center back. Gertie just loves her a lapped zipper! I chose to go with an invisible one which is quicker for me.

Dress worn here with a petticoat

I’m wearing it here with a petticoat (from Pettiskirt Style, now sadly closed). I think the dress looks nice with or without a petticoat. The crossover bodice does reveal a lot of cleavage, so if that is not your jam, you may have to do some altering to raise the neckline. I’m wearing a vintage Coro enamel necklace and earring set. I love vintage jewelry! It has an aged patina to it that I adore. I’m still searching for the matching bracelet to complete a parure.

My petticoat is not a super floofy one. At the time of this writing, Malco Modes (https://malcomodes.biz) has a very similar one on their website. This would be a match to their “Zooey” line.

I fully lined the bodice and skirt. In the book, Gertie used only facings. I sewed facings right on top of the lining before sewing the front and lining together. That way you just see the fashion fabric and not lining peeking out. The lining is a mish-mash of various lightweight cotton fabrics I had in my stash.

Hello there! Bertie the kitten was wondering what I was doing.

He is such an adorable cutie patootie. He just likes to be wherever I am. Very typical of Ragdolls.

Ack! Blurry photo!

So this UFO is almost 2 years old. Do I win the oldest UFO award? Probably not. I would love to know old your UFOs are?

My “Rory Gilmore Chilton Alumni Day” Dress

Yes, I’m a Gilmore Girls fan. The series and the 9 years later re-boot are among my favorite shows to play in the background while I sew. I love this cute dress that “Rory” wears to her Chilton Academy Alumni Day.

I noticed that the darted sheath dress in New Look 6013 looked very similar. They even used the same color combination on the pattern envelope’s artwork.

Now that mustard, taupe and cream color combination works for the actress (Alexis Bleidel), but it just doesn’t do it for me. So I went shopping in my stash and came up with this quirky, Alexander Henry print called “Corazones Hearts”, a quilting-weight cotton.

Adjustments to the pattern to fit me: I had to do an FBA and take out 1 inch in the center back for a sway back adjustment. The raglan sleeves are way too big on me, so I added an additional ½ inch to the seam allowance along the entire top center seam.

My bust darts pucker slightly even though I re-sewed them twice. The FBA chapter in The Palmer/Pletsch Complete Guide To Fitting say that these styles of fitted dress with horizontal and vertical bust darts may need a more pointy [read vintage style] bra. I don’t own a bullet bra. Maybe I should invest in one? Even the authors admit they can’t get pucker-free bust darts with today’s molded bras so I’m not going to worry about my less than perfect darts.

The heart with the angel just happened to hit the center of my chest by happy accident. I was just trying to keep the hearts from being dead center bull’s eyes over the bust tips.

I tried to do pattern matching on the back but the back seam is curved, and with my sway back adjustment, VERY curved. So the pattern matching on the back is a fail. The only bit that matched up is the heart at about the center of my back. The rest shift and look like I’m seeing double. I won’t try that again with a curvy back seam. Another lesson learned.

But overall, I’m happy with my “Rory Gilmore” dress.

Bunny Moon Maxi Dress

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Ever since I saw Maestra Kelly’s Silk Dupioni, Mother-of-the-Groom gown on Pattern Review, I have had me some serious sewing envy! So I went shopping in my stash and happily came up with the perfect cotton fabric for a summer maxi dress. The Fabric is Cotton & Steel’s “Folklore Moon Rabbit” by Rashida Coleman Hale, Fall 2014. So this has probably been in my stash about 5-6 years.

Cotton & Steel “Moon Rabbit”

Maestra Kelly used McCalls 6953 for her beautiful dress. M6953 comes with different cup sizes in the pattern, so hooray! I don’t have to do an FBA. I did, however, make a muslin of the bodice just to check, and yes, it did need some minor tweaking to fit me in the upper bust and armscye areas. Pinching out an inch at the upper edge of the princess seam into the armscye gave me a better fit. Otherwise I have major gaping at the armhole which is typical for me. A super easy adjustment done in 5 minutes. YAY!

I altered the neckline to a deeper scoop neck. I plan to make a shorter version of this dress and I will stay with the higher neckline for that one. I did some minor fabric pattern matching to make sure the moons and the rabbits lined up across the dress.

I changed the order of the sewing instructions to accommodate my fluctuating weight. I sewed the front skirt to the front bodice to make one unit, and the back bodice to the back skirt. That way I could do the side seams in one long go and I can take them in or let them out as needed more easily.

I had pinched out 1/2 inch in the center back for a sway back adjustment. Looks like I need to pinch out a little more for the next version. There’s some fabric bunching at my center back waistline.

I didn’t do any fancy seam finishes for this dress. All seams are finished with overlocking except for the bodice which is fully lined. I took Maestra Kelly’s suggestion and sewed down the pleats for 2 inches for a slimmer waistline.

I love my new summer maxi dress. Bertie wanted to get in the pictures. He is just too cute!!!

Conversations with Bertie Dress

Bertie is the newest member of our household. He’s a 13 week old Ragdoll kitten. So now we total 4 cats, 2 rescues and 2 Ragdolls. This dress is McCall’s M8091 #NoemiMcCalls. It kind of worked – – and kind of didn’t work for me.

I love the design of this dress. I made view B without the pockets.

First I made a test muslin and thank goodness I did. Otherwise I would have wasted the Cotton & Steel “Mustang” by Melody Miller fabric, although I didn’t know it at the time. Here’s how the bodice fit on me with the princess seam opened to accommodate my FBA:

Here is the side-by-side comparison of the original side bodice pattern and my adjusted pattern piece:

Then I ran into a weird problem in the muslin. The waist band. I could not get it to work for me. The pattern piece is drafted as just a single, long, straight-as-a-board piece. It was really funky fitting around my waist and made the skirt hang wonkily. I think it would have worked better for me if it had been a shaped/curved waist band. I didn’t want to draft a better fitting waistband, so I took the easy way out and eliminated the waist band altogether, which kind of defeats the design of the dress and was one of the features I actually liked about the style. So here are a couple of my re-adjusted bodice pieces, elongated to make up for the missing waistband:

So, though I still like the dress, it wasn’t exactly what I had envisioned. I chose to skip all the topstitching since I ditched the waist band on my version.

I’m wearing a Mid-century parure of Peach colored thermoset jewelry.

“But mommy, I like clawing up the couch…”

Bertie kind of looks like an Ewok…

The Jenna Dress

I have been wanting to make By Hand London’s Jenna Dress for some time now, ever since I saw Kate Eva’s cute version. I made variation 1, with the knee length hem with the square-ish neckline. This style is fitted in the bodice and then skims over the bumpy bits in the bias cut skirt.

This fabric is a thin, very crisp cotton from my stash. The selvedge info says “Patty Reed Designs, 2011 Laurie Campbell, La-di-draw, Inc for Fabric Traditions. So according to the date on the selvedge, I may have had this in my stash for 9 years.

I love the tie detail on the sleeves. They were just a tiny bit fiddley. By Hand London has an excellent online sew along with two ways to sew the sleeves. I think a beginner could handle this dress. They do a lot of hand holding in their tutorials.

The cotton I used is very crisp and I had a lot of trouble with the dreaded pointy bust darts. ACK! I had to unpick and re-sew twice before I was happy with them. I also added bra strap guards because of the very wide neckline but forgot to use them in the photos. One of my bra straps is just peeking out. I may add just a little width to the shoulders so that doesn’t happen on a future version.

Variation 1 has a short skirt. I am 5’3” and on me, before sewing the hem, it hit just above my knees. I didn’t want to go any shorter, so I had to sew on hem lace/tape and folded that up for hemming. I’m a bit long in the tooth for very short skirts. Next time I will add 2 inches to the pattern. BHL said that if you use a fabric that is stable and doesn’t ravel easily, you don’t need to finish the seams in the bias skirt. My dress is fully lined with Bemberg rayon anyway, so I took their word for it and left the seams unfinished.

I made a matching “cough mask” just for the heck of it from the leftover scraps. Future generations will really be able to date this to the Coronavirus era.

I’d like to to make this again in a more fluid fabric, like a rayon challis. This cotton is just a tad too stiff, but regardless, I still really like this dress.