Friday, 22 March 2013

The Sixties Cleopatra

So, do you remember these curtains?

My husband's Grandmother gave me these curtains (thank you Baba!), I think they're from the 50s or 60s. With some encouragement from Twitter, I decided to turn these into a little 60s dress in time for my holiday to Egypt - I leave tomorrow by the way and I am typing this as my nails dry - yep I'm a cool multi-tasker (probably with smudged nails)!

In thinking up my design, I thought this would be the right project to try a little dart manipulation. I recently read a Threads article, which showed a nifty way of changing the darts to a diagonal formation. That is, changing both bust and waist darts to a kind of V-shape design. 

As per usual, I can't just be straightforward. Even with my looming Egyptian deadline, I have to get complicated. 

I drafted up my usual bodice block and set to work changing the darts.

Front bodice block: A new dart leg was drawn up to the bust point, then bust 
and original waist dart were closed up to create new dart

Back bodice dart: Same principle - the new dart finished into the
zip seam to recreate the v on the bodice front

I checked all my measurements and everything seemed to add up (waistline etc) so I prepared the muslin.

 I was pretty happy with my first attempt! Everything seemed to fit perfectly. I pinned the muslin, which is why it looks a bit 'on point' in the booby area. Once I was happy with the fit (thanks to some expert zip seam pinning from husband, he's a dab hand at it now) it was time for the curtains to have a new lease of life.

Back bodice: Something's wrong, I don't feel right
Front bodice: Oh pull yourself together
Back bodice: I can't do that anymore

Wow I am funny!

Okay slight digression.

So, the curtains were now officially dress fabric and even though they're a thicker fabric than I usually work with for dresses, they were a dream to put together and did exactly as they were told! Good curtains.

I decided to have a little fun on the inside of this dress and found some great yellow and white polka dot bias binding to bound the seams. I loved how well it went with the Aztec print.

For the skirt, I drafted up a basic skirt block and changed the front darts to a central pleat, which would sit directly under the point of the v-shape bodice dart. Leaving the waist darts on the skirt would have looked odd. For the back, I had the zip seam so I couldn't replicate that design, so instead I just converted the back darts to two pleats. I think in hindsight, I could have inserted a side zip, then I could have matched the design. 

Here's the finished look - The Sixties Cleopatra

The dress has a scoop neck on the front and a deeper scoop neck on the back to give it that 60s look. I finished the hem just above the knee - oh and here's a little cheat I did. I used the hem of the curtains as my hem...any way I can save on extra work, I will ;) 

The back view - wishing I had Joan Holloway's curves here! And Don Draper for that matter. Maybe he's waiting outside the window, captivated by my sexy curtains. Little does he know I have a pair he can actually unzip.

Okay back to reality.

Here's a close up of that dart manipulation:

I really love this technique and will definitely incorporate it again, or try different types of dart formations. 

For the zipper I went old school and did a lapped zipper. My intention was to go invisible but could I find a matching zipper? NOPE. Matching zippers are a big pet hate of mine, I never seem to find the right colour and always end up ordering multiple options online. I didn't have time to do that for this dress, but luckily the Dixie Lou Haberdashery came up trumps and I found a cool mink-coloured zipper in my sewing supplies. I actually think it works quite well.

Am I ready for Egypt?


(Actually I still have a billion things to do...but thankfully none of them involve sewing.)


  1. You look so great! and Egypt! I'm so excited for you. You're adorable in your dress and I love the dart manipulation.

  2. Wonderful job! I love the darts and the scoop in the back. Actually I love everything!

  3. Your gress is gorgeous! I love those darts. :)

  4. Wow - It's fabulous! The dress looks great on you - I'm so glad you decided to give the curtains new life! Have lots of fun on your vacation! :)

  5. wow Clare this dress is amazing and so beautiful, please come teach me to sew!