Recreating a Patou Bodice with Fastenings and Fitted Lace: #V1350 Vogue Paris Original

This will be the third Patou dress I’ve recreated. Patou’s garments from the mid-fifties are among my favorites, because they are uniquely interesting and challenging. Marc Bohan was the designer during this time, which was two years before he moved over to his 30-year career at the house of Dior. Do you see his hand in this design?

Sometimes, the line drawing makes the design appear more clearly, although the back draping is still quite complex.

We are in for a journey with this one! Did you notice the request for 6” horsehair braid? And 8 yards of it! Luckily, MoodFabrics had just enough of this specialty horsehair braid in that size, although I ended up buying out their entire remaining inventory, and, no, it will not be used in the hem. Horsehair braid is rarely used in designer garments at the hem, because it distorts the hem and makes it wavy and unpleasant. I have a big surprise for you regarding how I plan to use this horsehair braid in the future, so...stay tuned!

The bodice and the skirt require two separate zipper sizes: a 7” zipper for the bodice, and an 8“ zipper for the skirt portion.

Truth be told, side zippers in a bodice are not my favorite, unless they are found in a sleeveless bodice.

If the bodice has sleeves or shoulder seams, side-zipped dresses are much more difficult to get in and out of. It is guaranteed that one will leave makeup or lipstick smears on the dress. (I don’t like leaving makeup on my clothes).

Does anyone else struggle with fitting a tight bodice over your head and shoulders? Fitted side-zip bodices also present the risk of distorting and wrinkling the bodice with all that contortion from squeezing in and out. I figured this out when I tried to squeeze into the bodice toile. I wasn't prepared to go to battle. Eek! Wrinkled garments are the enemy of couture presentation.

Since I was not completely happy with this design and the drama of its closed zipper, I had to find a better solution. At first glance, I thought a simple solution would be to move the zipper to the back. Unfortunately, this design isn’t able to accommodate the zipper in the back, because of the incredible amount of detail and draping in the skirt. The skirt is permanently attached to the bodice, as you can see from the line drawing below.

If I could have moved the zip to the back, that’s probably what I would have done. Some sewists will always move their zips to where they are the most comfortable. Even zips in the back can present some challenges, especially if there’s a hook and eye at the very top. (I haven't mastered that reverse prayer hook-and-eye Yoga move yet).

Below is another example that presents difficult issues with solo dressing. This simple 1960’s Chanel blouse recreation should be easy to slip into, but it isn’t, because this, too, necessitates another set of hands to help button the buttons up the back.

Since we are on this topic, I have heard that couture is notorious for its complex fastenings, some which are not possibly accessible to the wearer. Such designs absolutely require assistance: sometimes, even more than one other person to get dressed. I feel very sorry about the beautiful couture garments that have discriminated against ladies who live alone or who are otherwise self-dependent!

Anyway, I have learned, over time, with dressmaking, that it is extremely important to consider how you’ll be getting the garment on and off, and who will be your steady and willing assistant. Even with designer patterns, I try to find a better way to improve upon the closures, based on my lifestyle. Sometimes, I don’t want another hand helping me in and out of garments! So what do we do? How do we adjust for this problem that’s been presented to us right off the bat?

How I will modify the Patou bodice:

I spent days considering a different way to engineer this dress for purposes of ease and self-sufficiency.

I thought, by keeping the shoulder seams free, the garment would be easier to slip into. I looked for a 2.5 inch zipper. There are no separating zippers shorter than 4 inches. Because installing a zipper at the shoulder would not work, my initial backup plan was to use hook and eyes instead. However, when I thought things through, the thick lace cording with facings then may not lay flat. Although I may not attempt this idea, I extended the shoulder seam allowance to 1.25” to allow for a placket and some room for mistakes, just in case I may want to experiment with this idea. Sometimes, we just have to forge ahead and build in room for mistakes, because one doesn't truly know until one can experiment.

Yes, I admit it, to make matters even more complicated, I picked out an unusual lace fabric for the bodice. That means I also need to shape the lace around all the darts and any of the plackets I would create. To see if this is even a possibility with this fabric, I cut a sample and played around to see how I would sew and shape the lace together, and how it would behave.

At first, I tried hand-stitching the lace together, but this didn’t look good at all. Then, I went to the machine to try to mimic the weave. Using a zigzag of .30 length and a 5.5 width, the piecing looked smoother. This wasn't a perfect solution, but, keep in mind, this is a sample piece and not cut this way on the pattern. I think I’m going to go forward with this method, because it mimics the lace weave much closer than hand-stitching.

The darts were invisibly sewn together, and the lace bodice overlay was shaped the same as the underlining. No bulky lace darts!

While working on this, I still faced the nagging issue of how to slip in and out of the bodice easily. One night in a dream, I realized that a simple solution would be to replace the closed zipper with a separating zipper along the side seam.

This would allow room for me to comfortably get the bodice over my head and shoulders, limiting the risk of distorting or staining the pure white lace bodice. I’ll be using a nylon coil separating zipper from YKK, because I couldn’t find a metal zip in the size needed.

After a week waiting for the zipper to arrive, I was able to finish the bodice project. Although there wasn't a corselet, there was still enough hand-stitching involved to keep me occupied for a week.

Now...for the fitting...this is where the proof is in the pudding!

Success! It was easy to get in and out of this bodice! Next time, however, I’d put a hook at the top to help ”start” the zipper. I like that it’s a separating zip. Since it is along the side seam, no one has to know.

The seperating zipper didn’t effect the fit either.

As you can see, couture is based on more than just visual aesthetics. One should consider all factors when making even the smallest of decisions, like closures. I am ready to move on now to the skirt!