Selecting Fabric for Patou V1389

I'm looking forward to recreating this Patou ensemble:

The Patou design is from 1957. The dress appears to be made from chiffon for the skirt, and satin for the bodice and jacket.

Upon further examination, I’m not certain that Patou’s fashion house wanted us to make this dress, because they presented this pattern with some glaring omissions.

Every pattern I've previously sewn from comes with fabric suggestions. The designer or pattern maker provides the dressmaker this information because they have thought through the fabric content that would keep the silhouette true to the original vision of the dress.

I couldn’t find any fabric suggestions for the outer fashion fabric on the envelope or the pattern instructions, which is a pity. They did provide a clue for underlining the bodice and for the fabric for the underskirt: taffeta, thin silk, and soft silk. The underbodice is made from course net and featherboning.

Upon further research, I found the dress in the November 15, 1957 issue of Vogue magazine. Vogue magazine does provide us with more clues: the dress is made in pink satin for the bodice and matching coat, and the skirt portion made of chiffon. I believe Patou used 3 different fabrics for the outer fashion fabric.

We cannot envision the totality of the dress. With black and white photos, we can visualize the drape, sheerness, and fit, but color and fabric change the personality of the dress and the wearer, so it would have been nice to see a color photograph of this dress.

The fabric decision for this dress was very difficult. I swatched a beautiful JMendel french chiffon fabric from Mood Fabrics. I thought a black/navy chiffon would be delivered but imagine my surprise to open up 19 yards of purple. Bright purple! With snags and terrible handling of the piece.

Mood doesn’t have a return policy on fabrics so I felt stuck and unsure about the color and which underlining to use since chiffon is sheer. It is a difficult color to match in satin as well. The color is more of a royal purple blue.

Not knowing how I was going to create this dress in the color provided, I went into my closet and staring back at me was hand-dyed purple dupioni from India. Dupioni is thicker with more slubs compared to taffeta but I’ve decided to veer away from their fabric suggestion of using taffeta for the interfacing, just to be able to use up my fabric stash.

The pattern also omits the need for a zipper! the zipper is a critical piece for the dress. Using the correct length is also critical. (This is a hard lesson learned; too short of a zipper won‘t let you pull the dress over your hips!) The zipper will be attached to the underbodice.

It is difficult to believe that the silhouette is made from merely two layers of chiffon. There must be a petticoat underneath the original, but there wasn’t a mention of it on the pattern. So I debated if I should make the pattern as is, or create a petticoat to build out the dress. Remember, whatever tulle I choose will peek through the sheer chiffon. I decided to practice with tulle to be able to have a backup plan in case the dress is too drapey.

It is difficult to think only in fabric when choosing fabric. One must also consider the sheerness, drape and silhouette before making the final decision. Even then, many times, the dress becomes an unknown and exciting experiment.