French Gypsy Dress

1952 French Gypsy dress

And finally, after two years of waiting in the wings, and following a match-made fabric and pattern eureka moment, my French Gypsy Dress is finished and worn already.

The pattern is by Sew La Di Da Vintage, and I knew I would love it but I could never quite decide on the fabric. The samples shown on the site and exhibited at the shows I’ve visited are so gorgeous I could never hope to get close. I love the packaging and the styling of all the patterns.

Gypsey Dress sewing pattern

I found the fabric online at Minerva Crafts, which is unusual for me. I much prefer shopping in real life! I have to touch and feel and think about it and walk from shop to shop and talk about it with the assistants before I make a call. But when I found this beaut on a random scroll, I didn’t give a second thought to what it would feel like or indeed what it was for – I just loved the colours and the black background of course. It’s a stretch cotton sateen. Quite sturdy, moderate stretch and a great lack of creasibility!




Thing is, I didn’t connect to two to begin with. And when sometime after I considered pairing them I thought it would be too weighty for the gathered upper bodice and sleeves. Though I knew the skirt would totally benefit from a bit of weight and the silhouette would be awesome.

French Gypsy Dress back

Then I got busy and all sewing plans were out the window until I got a free weekend. Woohoo! A whole undisturbed Saturday and after a pep talk with my mum it was full steam ahead. She basically said, “What are you so scared of? If it all goes pear shaped you can just get some more fabric.” Which is true of course, if not a little bit wasteful. And I could have tested on something else first but I had a window of opportunity and I wanted a new dress right there and then!

And I couldn’t be more pleased. It fits in all the right places, is flattering and comfortable too.

Construction-wise its really quite simple. The most complicated thing is taking time to make those bodice and sleeve gathers even. I know now after heaps of lazy and rushed gathering attempts in the past, that the key is to sew 2 rows of gathering stitches, either side of the intended seamline and there’s every chance your gathers will keep evenly distributed and pucker free.

1952 French Gypsy Dress

I made the binding for the neck and sleeve edges from some leftover black duchesse satin. I was prepared to rip it off if it didn’t work because I wasn’t entirely sure if it was the right kind of fabric for the job. But it was. Just perfectly right, actually!

There is a length of elastic inside the bias casing that starts and ends on the back sleeve seams. This is such a great idea because it allows for the dress to be worn on or off the shoulders and keeps the back bodice pieces completely flat. Incidentally there are no darts in the back pieces of this dress. Instead, the instructions call for a brilliant fitting stage whereby the back seam is pinned to fit and marked with chalk or an erasable pen (you will need a partner for this). Then the seam is machine tacked and pressed open so the creased edges give the perfect guide for zip insertion. It’s such a cool stage of instruction and one that I am definitely going to consider using on future makes. Is this a typical vintage construction method, I wonder?

French Gypsy dress reflection

I’m so happy with the outcome. It brightened a very drizzly day and feels so great to wear. And better still, it’s another strike off my #makenine2018 – wahooo!

I might try poomfing the skirt more with a layered petticoat and styling it up with flowers in my hair. Definitely a contender for what to wear when the Frida Kahlo exhibition hits the V&A this year.

Well it’s back to work tomorrow. But I’ll be returning with a head full of plans. That’s the trouble with a bit of time off!

 




18 Replies to “French Gypsy Dress”

  1. FRENCH GYPSY DRESS!!! When I saw that in my email I broke the land speed record getting in here to see it. and wow, it’s everything that name promises.
    Loving this look. I can’t wait to see it in person in October/November, with a bit of luck? xo

    1. Oh thank you MrsC. Such an awesome thing to say. And really?… this year…? I’m so excited!! Everything crossed!! xxx

  2. Ooh la la! I adore this dress. It is a perfect pairing of pattern and fabric. I would have thought the cotton sateen might have been too thick, but no, it’s just right. My only complaint is that I want to make one now!

    1. Thanks so much Suzy. That was absolutely my first thought and I really had big doubts but it actually formed the neatest gathers and has great structure to boot! Go do it. It will so suit you. And you have the perfect backdrop for your shoot! x

    1. Thank you, Jen. I would definitely recommend you try this pattern and I would be very happy to hold your hand along the way!

  3. I completely understand how you fell for this fabric and the marriage of pattern and fabric is quite perfect.

  4. Ooo!! This is gorgeous!! I have such a soft spot for a gypsy/peasant style dress, and this one is a definate winner. And I love the fabric too!

  5. Am old enough now to be considered “vintage,” my ownself.

    Yes, machine basting and pressing the seam open before inserting a lapped or centered zip fastener was the standard technique in years past. I do believe it is still printed on the packaging of Coats & Clark zippers. Helps a great deal in removing basting later if you take a seam ripper and cut the stitches on one side of seam every 5-7 stitches. Seam will hold closed just fine for the time it takes to put in the zipper. Then you can unzip and the stitches fall away. (Use your dragon talons to remove any bits of thread that poke out, or a tweezer if you don’t have long fingernails.)

    1. Lol, me too! Thanks Lin. Great tips. Do you think the technique of fitting/pinning the back seam is a vintage technique too?

  6. Hi there again.. I had lost where to comment for a minute, but I found you!

    The dress really suits your personality and style. Great make! I love it. I also prefer to handle my fabric IRL before buying, but have succumbed to Minerva at times!

    1. Sorry about that, Rachel. Had to revise the theme of my site because the last one wasn’t compatible with the current system. Oh the joys of technology! Thanks so much for your lovely comment. I think Minerva gives me more confidence to buy online because their descriptions are good.

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