Paging Madame Gres

With the holidays over, I decided to get going on this 60s Vogue Pattern by French designer Madame Gres.

Gres pattern

I’ll write more about Alix Gres’ history in a future post, but since she was known for her genius at draping jersey, I thought the dress would look nice made from some dark blue merino jersey that I have in my stash. (Just FYI, I bought this beautiful New Zealand jersey from The Fabric Store in L.A., and the info is in this post.)

The design is actually a straight shift dress underneath, with French darts to give shaping from the bust to the waist, one of my favorite vintage cuts.

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Then a large half-circle of fabric is attached to the front and back of the dress on the diagonal and over one shoulder, and slashed to go under the arm, giving it an asymmetrical flow. As always with these old designs, I know that something that simple is probably going to be tricky.

You never know what you’re going to find when you look at these vintage patterns. In this case, there were still some old tailor’s tacks attached.

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I decided to use some cheap ponte from my stash to do a quick muslin. Even though this pattern is a couple of sizes too small for me, sometimes these 60s patterns are cut somewhat loose, and I also knew that with a knit there would be some extra ease in a pattern cut for a woven.

I’ve been reading this fitting book recommended by Susan Khalje, which is based on analyzing the body for fit, rather than analyzing what’s going on with the garment. It’s very helpful!

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(Sorry the pictures are so lousy this morning…things haven’t been the same since I fired my graphics team.)

I started by comparing the pattern to the fitting shell pattern I made last winter (hope it still fits!), and found that actually, the Gres pattern was pretty close.

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But since I’m making it in a knit, I held the pattern up to a knit dress I have to compare the fit.

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Again, it was pretty close, so I just added a little room on the side seams when I cut it out.

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I put the muslin together, and the fit was quite close. (I’ll have a pic of that next time.) It has a nice flow from the bateau neck, curving in with the darts, and then going straight down.

The pattern calls for underlining, so after consulting with some sewing peeps, I decided to try underlining it with power mesh. The designer Roland Mouret is know for parking that mesh under his form-fitting Galaxy dresses.

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So I ran out to Sew-fisticated! in Cambridge to pick some up.

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They were ready for Jungle January big time!

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I hope to get the sewing going in earnest on this dress next week.

How’s your sewing going?

16 thoughts on “Paging Madame Gres

  1. Another fantastic vintage garment. I’ve only recently found your blog and absolutely love it. Top of the list! Thanks so much for sharing. Only problem is that I’m now losing a good chunk of my life to surfing ebay for fabulous vintage patterns 🙂

    • Thanks so much! Boy, that Ebay surfing can really get those alpha waves going. But in the case of the Spadea and Vogue designer patterns from the 50s and 60s, you really are getting patterns drafted from original garments. I’ve also been collecting the McCalls Halstons from the 70s, which have great lines.

  2. You fired your graphics team AND the chipmunks? Or the chipmunks were the graphics team?? LOL. I’ve been meaning to try the powermesh trick. I’m looking forward to your results.

  3. Interesting project, I am curious to see how this half circle draped finally. Using Power Mesh as a lining sounds like a very good idea, thank you for telling this, I should try it when sewing a fitted dress someday (now I was close to write “fitting dress”, could this be called a Freudian slip^^).
    And it is good to see you making a Vogue-Paris-Original-pattern, I own two myself (a Nina Ricci and a Lanvin one) and have never worked with them, maybe your project will finally get me going.
    ~ette

    • Hi Ette, those sound like great patterns, so I hope you will try them and show it on your blog. With this pattern I can see that some modern things may help, like the power mesh and an overlock stitch. I think attaching the drape will be tricky.

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