Friday, 17 July 2015

Cynthia Rowley 2406 Dress

Vintage markets are the source of some very good fabric finds I think.  Usually the nic-nacs and bric-a-brac take centre stage, whereas the beautiful printed and embroidered cottons and linens are folded and stacked away in a basket or piled up on the floor waiting to be rummaged through.  Hidden under a table in a box of table cloths and pillow cases was this 4 metres of fabric for £4.  A steal surely. I'm not sure if this is truly vintage though, it's probably 1970's or even 1980's, but the retro design, like a sort of intergalactic fireball explosion, is quite appealing.  Also, well hey, 4 whole pounds sterling means I can take a risk and experiment with this project!

Enter the Cynthia Rowley pattern, Simplicity 2406, which I've been holding onto until the right fabric presented itself.  I'm never sure whether a dress that is basically shaped by the addition of a tie belt is just going to look like a sack on me, and I usually avoid them, but I'm trying it out as I like the sleeves on this design and also the split back ads a bit of 'va va voom'.  

I'm really pleased with the result.  The dress is wearable with or without the tie belt depending on the look I want to go with and the dress shape has enough interest with the sleeves, neckline and back detail to stop any unflattering sacky-ness creeping in.  Constructing the sleeves was an interesting puzzle and took me a while to work through, but it's a clever idea and the resulting bare shoulder and dropped sleeve hem is unusual.  

The split back has a facing on the inside so it looks neat even when billowing out slightly - no unsightly seam edges. The seams inside the armholes are finished with black satin bias binding.  I chose a vintage black faceted button for the back neck fastening and a small piece of satin ribbon for the loop.

This fabric has a whole lot going on, with psychedelic colours and geometric designs fighting it out against an embossed surface that is also patterned, to produce a shimmering matt/gloss effect.  I'm pretty sure it's a man made fibre (note to self, stay away from naked flames).  Although it has a really fluid weight and drape that flows beautifully over the body, it was a nail-biting nightmare to sew with! It slipped and slid all over the cutting mat, resisted pins and took ages to cut. It also hated the iron and wouldn't let me press the seams.  And it frayed lots. On the whole this sulky, psychedelic diva refused to play nicely with me and had to be wheedled and cajoled at every stage of the game.  Fortunately both the design of the dress and the colours of the fabric are both quite forgiving of tiny errors in lining up the pattern pieces.

But the finished garment was worth the effort I think and it's a dress I'm going to love wearing from summer into autumn, with bare legs for now or tights and boots later in the year.  I've found wearing a bandeau underneath it works well, so that no bra fastenings are visible at the back.  Wearing it over a vest top might also work well in colder weather.  I like the idea of making another one of these dresses in a fabric with more structure and body, so that the shapes become more exaggerated and less soft and flowing.  The 'shed shots' here look a bit washed out because of the bright midday sunlight and rushed camera work, but you get the idea of the shape.

I still have nearly 2 metres of this fabric left, so there's plenty to make something else, but it might be a while before I consider grappling with it again.  I think one difficult diva dress is enough for now.  Grey ankle boots from Mint Velvet, sunglasses unnamed from bargain rack, Boyes.


  1. Perseverance won the day when sewing this dress - well worth it, it looks great!

  2. Thank you AWR! Yes it was a bit of an endurance project. Glad you like the finished look. Sarah