That 70s Dress: Diane Von Furstenberg

Designer Diane von Furstenberg at Home

Diane Von Furstenberg looking like art. source: Corbis

The September Monthly Stitch vintage-challenge-badgechallenge was to sew something from Vintage Patterns.  I chose the iconic 70s dress maven Diane Von Furstenberg’s knit dress pattern from Vogue (V1547).  There was also a challenge called Fall For CottonFallForCotton200where you were to sew a vintage inspired pattern using only cotton fabrics.  So, I chose only cotton knits for both of the dresses. Diane Von Furstenberg Knit DressesIn the 1970s, Diane Von Furstenberg launched her signature versatile, easy-breezy wrap dress, that came to symbolize freedom and strength for a newly empowered generation of women.  It symbolized the New Woman, the then-revolutionary concept of competing in a man’s world while looking feminine.

Diane Von Fustenberg and Andy Warhol.  source:  Harper's Bazaar

Diane Von Fustenberg and Andy Warhol. source: Harper’s Bazaar

By 1976 she had sold over a million of her signature knit wrap dresses and landed on the cover of The Wall Street Journal and Newsweek, the latter dubbing her “the most marketable woman since Coco Chanel” (http://www.dvf.com/timeline-70s.html).

Von Furstenberg has been the president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America since 2006 and the year before was honored with their lifetime achievement award.  A 1970s DVF knit wrap dress is represented in New York’s Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

My mother, in the 1970s, used a DVF wrap dress Vogue pattern 1549, with collar and cuffs, to sew a dress for herself in a geometric black and white printed knit.

DVF 70s collared and cuffed knit wrap dress

My mum’s DVF knit wrap dress she sewed in the 1970s

Her version is almost identical to one DVF wore on the cover of Vogue Patterns magazine from 1976.

DFV on Vogue Patterns Magazine

DVF on the cover of Vogue Patterns, 1976

V1547 – Version B

For my short-sleeved belted version of the dress, I used ‘Germania’ by Jay McCarrol for FreeSpirit, Westminster Fibers brown geometric polka dot fabric.  It is a cotton knit that I purchased in the quilting section of a home decor fabric store.  And, after sewing the dress, I do wonder if this fabric is more suitable to quilts, blankets, etc. because I had a horrific time while sewing it.

DFV brown polka dot knit dress front and backTrying to unpick a stitch resulted in an almost immediate hole or would leave an obvious white spot from the needle holes since the back of the fabric is white and it also kept stretching completely out of shape.DVF brown polka dot knit dress Go Kitty (2)I could not get the overlocker to sew it properly, it kept jamming the machine, so I used a sewing machine.  But, using the triple stretch stitch or the knit stitch, the sleeve bands stretched 2 inches while I was sewing them on.  So, they do not lie flat and are not tight enough. When I tried a regular straight stitch, it would not hold together and slid back and forth on the thread as if gathering and then would break almost immediately.

Hello Kitty!

Hello Kitty!

I decided to wash the dress and put it in a hot dryer (even though I had already pre-shrunk) to see if it would help tighten up the fabric.  No, it did not.  But, what it did do was wrinkle like the dickens.  So, I had to iron every inch of my easy, breezy, simple knit dress.  Does this sound almost like blasphemy?  So, all in all, it did not turn out the way I had hoped, but it still works for a very casual, almost sweatshirt-like dress.  If anybody has any ideas about using this kind of fabric for fitted garments, or if indeed, it is not meant to be used for this purpose, please do share.

Reasons to Love the 70s.  Can You Think Of Any More?

Reasons to Love the 70s. Can You Think Of Any More?

V1547 – Version A

DVF blue knit dress front and backFor the long-sleeved version with the scarf tie, I used a four-way stretch cotton knit jersey.  I was nervous that it would be too stretchy and have even worse problems than the brown fabric, but it actually sewed up just fine and drapes really well.  It feels fabulous on, the fabric is very thin and silky with a heavy drape and ‘swishes’ nicely when I walk.

Oooooh, Swishy!

Oooooh, Swishy!

I am going to make a buckled belt for it out of the same fabric to offer up an alternative silhouette.  DVF blue knit dress front with scarf tie vintageThe scarf tie is perfect in this fabric, with such a heavy drape, it stays around the neck and being a thin fabric, folds easily and neatly into place.  DVF blue knit dress scarf tie (2)DVF knit wrap dress side with scarf tieAlthough you won’t be able to tell, I’m wearing Oscar de la Renta perfume, a classic fragrance that debuted in 1977.

DVF blue knit dress cat bombed polaroidWho Loves Kitty? DVF brown polka dot knit dress Who Loves Kitty (2)