Inspiration: Wrap Dress

Sew Well - "Famous Frocks:  Little Black Dress" Inspiration

These days I do more dreaming about sewing than actual sewing.  Juggling a nine-month-old cutie, a hundred house renovation projects, and an all-consuming science writing project has proven to be as much as I can handle most days.  Even my running has taken a hit! As my sewing machine collects dust, my mind still continues to wander through all the projects that I want to sew as soon as things slow down a bit.

One thing that has been at the top of my dream list for awhile is a wrap dress, especially since this year is the 40th anniversary of the iconic dress.  I’ve never been convinced that I had the figure for a wrap dress.  I’ve always thought I was a bit too straight up and down for what I imagined was a curve-loving dress.  But, that hasn’t stopped me from longing for one. I’ve had my eye out for a pattern, but have you seen how much a Vogue Diane von Furstenberg wrap dress pattern can go for on eBay?!  I once found my size listed for $100, and that felt like a steal!  Crazy, right?  No, I couldn’t justify buying that pattern, but it was gone within a day, so someone else thought it was too good to pass up. My wrap-dress fever became all the worse after following the Curvy Sewing Collective’s Wrap-Along and Gorgeous Fabrics Blog’s Wrapapalooza.  After one too many of their wrap dress posts, I remember digging through all of my patterns to see if I had anything that might give me a starting point.  I thought for a second about the Sewaholic Yaletown (first made here), but I decided neither it nor anything else I had really felt right.

Enter Famous Frocks: The Little Black Dress.

Sew Well - "Famous Frocks:  Little Black Dress" Inspiration

There, on page 132 was a Diane von Furstenberg-esque wrap dress pattern!  The pattern even included a waistline seam, attached belt, long sleeves, and flared skirt – the key elements I decided I had to have after reading Ann of Gorgeous Fabrics Blog’s Wrapapalooza wrap-up post.  I pulled out the bright blue silk jersey that I’ve been saving for just such a dress, and now all I need to do is find a bit of time.  I’m currently pretending like December is going to be my month to sew all the things since I hope to be done with my science paper draft by then and would like to honor the 40th anniversary of this dress.

Okay, the real reason Chronicle Books sent me this book was for a review.  They had no idea I’d been dreaming about wrap dresses for longer than I’d like to admit.  Good for me, good for them!

From the cover we learn that this book includes little black dresses made famous over the decades by their iconic wearers.  And, it promises patterns for 20 garments, so that’s brings its price to about a buck a pattern.  I counted, and the 20 patterns are made up of 16 dresses, 2 skirts, and 2 tops.  So, this book is really for the lover of the dress.

Sew Well - "Famous Frocks:  Little Black Dress" Inspiration

When you open it up, you’re greeted with the patterns in an envelope on the left and the book on the right.  The patterns are all printed on paper that seems to me to be similar to newsprint. They are not nested like Japanese sewing book or Burda magazine patterns, so if you’re a pattern cutter instead of a pattern tracer, this book is fair game.  (Though the book does instruct you to trace!)

The first section of the book is devoted to techniques, and then the entire rest of the book is devoted to pattern instructions.

The book includes ten iconic little black dresses, like this one inspired by this Kate Moss lace dress:

Sew Well - "Famous Frocks:  Little Black Dress" Inspiration

This dress makes me crave a date night with my husband.  And long, thick hair.

The book pairs each little black dress with a colorful variation, like so:

Sew Well - "Famous Frocks:  Little Black Dress" Inspiration

You can see the similarity in the dress body, but this particular variation has a new neckline, includes a hem band, and removes the sleeves.

The Diane von Furstenberg-style wrap dress is actually the colorful variation of this Liza Minnelli look:

Sew Well - "Famous Frocks:  Little Black Dress" Inspiration

The Liza wrap dress is sleeveless and includes a narrow skirt.

And, that’s only four of the 20 patterns!  The one thing I wish this book had was a visual table of contents. There’s no way to quickly glance over all of the patterns when are dreaming about sewing.  So, I made one for this review.

Sew Well - "Famous Frocks:  Little Black Dress" Inspiration

First up we have a Coco Chanel-inspired knit dress with its sleeveless variation and a Joan Crawford-inspired woven dress with its bias-cut skirt variation.  Each new icon is introduced with a bit of history and a quote.  The quote included for Joan Crawford just kills me:

I never go outside unless I look like Joan Crawford the movie star.  If you want the girl next door, go next door. -Joan Crawford

I often go to the grocery store forgetting that I’m wearing slippers.

Sew Well - "Famous Frocks:  Little Black Dress" Inspiration

The next round includes an Ava Gardner-inspired halter dress with its full-coverage, gathered-skirt variation and an Audrey Hepburn-inspired full-skirted, princess-seamed dress with its narrow-skirted variation.  Ava Gardner’s included quote also kills me:

I wish to live to 150 years old, but the day I die, I wish it to be with a cigarette in one hand and a glass of whiskey in the other. -Ava Gardner

I just don’t have what it takes to be iconic!

Sew Well - "Famous Frocks:  Little Black Dress" Inspiration

The book also includes a Grace Kelly-inspired collared dress with its pencil skirt variation and a Mary Quant-inspired mini dress with its sleeveless variation.

Sew Well - "Famous Frocks:  Little Black Dress" Inspiration

Finally, we have an Angelica Houston-inspired jersey dress with its bias-cut top variation and a Princess Diana-inspired princess-seamed dress with its button-back top variation.

So many of these patterns remind me of my favorite patterns or patterns I never bought but felt like I was missing out on. I’ve made a bunch of pencil skirts like the Grace Kelly variation in the past (here, here, and here) and have even had one half sewn since August. My Paco Peralta cowl-necked top reminds me of the Angelica Houston variation.  I love my princess-seamed Sewaholic Pendrell shell and think one with buttons down the back like the Princess Diana variation would be awfully cute. As for the patterns I missed…  I started blogging back in the day when the Colette Pattern’s macaroon pattern was popular.  I remember always wanting to try it but never having the courage since I was new to sewing and wasn’t yet ready to conquer the small-bust adjustment.  I think the Mary Quant variation could satisfy that long ago craving.  I also missed out on the Lady Skater craze, and I’m curious whether the Coco-inspired dress would fit the bill.

I’m eager to get back into a rhythm where sewing fits into most of my days.  When I do, I plan to pull out this book and try out a few of these patterns.  That wrap dress will be first!  How about you?  What kind of dresses have you been dreaming about?

Chronicle Books sent me Famous Frocks: The Little Black Dress for review.  If you like what you’ve seen and buy the book through the Amazon affiliate link above, a few pennies will end up in my pocket.  Neither the free book nor those pennies are enough to bias my opinion.  (Maybe if someone wanted to pay for my kitchen renovation… Ha!)

26 thoughts on “Inspiration: Wrap Dress

    1. The patterns aren’t all tangled together, but different sizes of a single pattern piece are nested together. They’re full size as well.

  1. I’m really hoping to see some of these dresses made up, because this book looks so great! TBH, I’m always a little skeptical of the drafting in pattern books, so I own very few. Can’t wait to see your wrap dress, and hope you can squeeze in a little sewing soon!

    1. I know. I’ve been wary about pattern books in the past, too. I’ve had good luck with those I’ve tried, but I’ve purposefully stayed away from others for just that reason. I’m not a fan of reviewing a book without actually making something from it, but I’ve been really misjudging my time lately. My list of garments I want to sew is growing faster than it’s shrinking these days!

  2. I hve seen that book going around in the blogs. I liked your post,,, with all the quotes from those iconic ladies! Of course you go to the store wearing slippers… You have a small child! I once went to work with a small half housecoat over my clothes and under my jacket. I was quite surprised when I took off my jacket and I was still wearing my housecoat! That was a laugh! (I used to wear it to protect my office clothes from my small child before going to work!)

  3. I flicked through the book on my last London visit. The styles are all a bit basic for me to spend money on it, though the presentation is good, and could be the nudge to get someone sewing, if the pattern drafts are up to scratch.

    1. Yes, the jury is still out on how well the patterns will make up. I’m hopeful – I really want to find the casual dress that I reach for every day, and this book definitely has a selection! While this book isn’t going to teach you how to make a couture wedding dress (like another one of my favorite sewing books!), I would say it has a decent amount of variation in darts and seam lines.

  4. This does look like a lovely book. I had a flick through it when I was in a book shop a week or so ago and like you I was drawn to the wrap dress. I have made myself a wrap dress before, but I haven’t been too keen on the fit. Perhaps I need to have another go. Can’t wait to see your wrap dress.

    1. Yeah, I thought it was a bit funny that the first dress I wanted to make was one of the variations. Here’s to hoping the wrap dress will work for me! If not, at least I didn’t spend $100 on a pattern I don’t like!

  5. I have yet to find the perfect warp dress. I do more dreaming of it than sewing, for sure. But, this one….hmmm. I like a bit of A line to it, but not too much mind you. Neck line looks good. Yes, this looks like it could be it! Maybe I’ll just dream a bit more on it, tho. Love the Crawford line.

  6. Utterly off-topic, but just had to thank you for the House of Eliott recommendation. I just finished all three seasons and completely blissed out on the beautiful designs and fabrics. And the engaging plot, of course. Wish it had’t ended!

  7. I bought that book for the Grace Kelly dress–the design felt fresh and new. Of course, I have a sewing queue a mile long, so it will be a while 🙂 I made a wrap dress just a few days ago (the Onion 2037), but I’d be willing to try out the version in this book. Can’t wait to see how it turns out for you! Good luck!

  8. Great review! After making three DvF wrap dresses, I offer this advice for any wrap pattern: add about 1/2″ – 1″ more to the waistline length. For some reason, wrapping a long belt around your middle several times pulls up the bodice length, making it a little too short-waisted. Looking forward to seeing your wrap dress whenever you get it made! (No pressure…)

  9. Ooh how cool, that looks like a total steal for a bunch of very lovely dress patterns! I’d love to hear about your experience when you try them!

  10. Yours is the best review I have seen of this book, and I ordered a copy via your link as soon as I finished reading it. In the past, I have bought several books, which included patterns, and, once the book arrived, either the multiple trace lines made my head spin, or I didn’t really care for any of the designs. That will not be the case this time. Thank you for taking the time to scan the photos, and write such a thoughtful review.

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