A couple of weeks ago I wrote a love letter to Perry Ellis, saying what great clothes he designed for Vogue in the 1980s.
This pattern, Vogue 1522, was one I picked out as being useful and beautiful. Lisa (who, like me works in housing), left a comment to say she owned this very pattern, if I would like to borrow it. So I did. Thank you so much Lisa – very kind and generous of you. I have made the dress and the pattern will be returned to you today.
When I first showed these patterns some (younger) readers said they had never heard of Perry Ellis. I am glad if you are now aware of him and his lovely patterns.
But many more mentioned how they had made and worn Perry Ellis designs in the 1980s. Alix said she “definitely bought into that whole relaxed linen lifestyle he was selling” but had now sadly binned or lost her patterns. Christine Burns wrote “The first suit I made back in the 70’s was a lovely short sleeved Perry Ellis pattern. A timeless item. I wore it for years and still wish it was in my wardrobe.” Su of Sewstyled said “My mother made the V1521 dress for me in a striped pink white and grey cotton and I remember running around campus and nearly having a wardrobe malfunction. I had the skirt too in yellow cotton – I only threw it out a few years ago always thinking I could reuse the fabric. Perry Ellis had a great sense of proportion. My mother also made 1522 for me.” How nice to capture these personal stories and the sense of excitement the new shapes brought with them in the 1980s.
Pattern and alterations
Another discussion concerned the ease that was now coming into Vogue patterns. Helene made a strong point “These patterns from the 1980s and the 1990s ran HUGE. Not only were the designs oversized (it was the trend then, and it’s back now), but these patterns included tons of ease. So much in fact that I would systematically go a couple of sizes down.”
As you may know many 1980s patterns (especially Vogue designer) were offered in specific sizes with all the details arranged correctly and to scale. The pattern that came from Lisa was a UK size 12 (34-24-36). So, just as a test, I made my dress up unaltered. The bust is right for me, the waist fine (although not defined in this dress), but the hips would be at least two inches too tight. Theoretically. But I measured the pattern and found that the actual measurement was 40″ – to me that is about the right amount of ease for 38″hips. However I realised the top half might be a bit roomy, but figured that one shoulder slipping down (or the “wardrobe malfunction” Su mentions above) was par for the course in the 1980s. In some ways it defined the look – clothes that were so big they were already coming off.
There is also the question of the length. I tend to remain faithful, when making vintage patterns, to the original length and proportions of garments. This is because I actually like the fashion history part of making and wearing vintage, rather than diluting the look so it is more contemporary (eg I like big 70s collars too). I thought about shortening this dress considerably as it is ankle length, but then, for a holiday wardrobe, this length is rather nice – especially worn with sandals as in the envelope picture. So for the first time in ages I made up a garment with no alterations whatsoever.
The pattern suggests a lightweight linen. I had a few lighter linens and silks in my cupboard. I thought about finding a harmonious fabric for the sash and had a range of choices. Here are a few I considered. There are three pieces of Nani Iro in there as this dress had a very Japanese feel. When I had the dress on the stand my husband thought it was a 1920s pattern. Well during the 1980s, of course, there was intense interest in Japanese pattern cutting and 1920s styling. So the dress feels like it has the right kind of parentage. In the end I chose the bottom left – a lightweight indigo linen (woven with white, like jeans), and the yellow Nani Iro that I was sold short.
When I was making the dress up two 1980s details struck me – ideas that were new in the 1980s, but commonplace today. First was the absence of a bust dart. The bust shaping is taken into the armhole creating a great simplicity of line across the upper body. The second feature is the use of bias binding as opposed to facings or linings. During the 1960s and 1970s you would also have both the bust dart and facings. I quite enjoyed making bias binding and using it as a facing. I rarely use this finish and it is nice and neat. The instructions were generally straightforward and this dress was a joy to make.
The silhouette of this dress is not my usual one, and a tube is not the best shape for someone with a curved figure. It would suit a straight body much better. But the sash is used to shape in the dress and to pull it in over the high hip. I tried a scarf, a belt and the sash and created some nice looks. The wide sash prevents me using the pockets but is more shapely across the hips. The narrow scarf is patterned both sides so is probably more suitable. It actually looks fine with a leather belt too. If I was going on holiday to Greece this week (as Ben, Mel and Maia are) I would definitely take this dress.
I love the back button detail and the long column does suit you, I’m not sold on the ‘almost falling off the shoulder’ look on this dress as it doesn’t look intentional. The hip belt works esp in that colourway and I like the undefined waist with that, however, I’d want to lower the front neckline for a softer look, but those are merely style changes, the pattern is lovely.
its lovely, I prefer the wider sash and I love the high neck – totally remember that falling off the shoulder look (half of one year at 19 was spent pulling the shoulders up in off shoulder tee-shirts so I could move my arms………)
From the waist down, thumbs up. Above the waist- not feeling it. It’s doing nothing for you, and just looks unintentionally too big. OK for lounging around on a holiday perhaps, but I don’t see it working apart from that. I’d chop it into a skirt!
Love this, Kate, although I agree that maybe the shape up top isn’t the perfect one to show your great shape. I really love the idea and the silhouette overall though and the sash is tops. I feel we are ready for some fresher, looser looks after all of the skinny jeans and body con dresses and stuff. I am attracted to full midi skirts and have been wearing my old boot cut and wider jeans again lately and have mostly aband one the skinnies. I definitely think there is a Perry Ellis make in my near future. Thanks for raising the idea. AlwayS a step ahead!
Hmm, I might have the odd Perry Ellis pattern lingering in my stash. I can’t do 1980s patterns yet. Not sure why, but I feel a bit emotionally scarred by the whole fashion era, although I do have boxes of patterns. This dress looks great on you, and I love the wide, obi-style belt.
You carry it off well. Not sure I am ready to relive the, 80s just yet though! Love the yellow b and.
Make It Any Wear
Perry Ellis designed some terrific sweaters. Take a look around for them for some great knitting inspiration.
I did come across one I loved. I will have a closer look now. Thanks!
All of the best 80s sweater designs were Ellis’: I made a couple for my spouse. Boxy but well thought out and still sharp, possibly sharper than his women’s wear. I’ll check if I still have those issues; I was knitting them through 2014 (when I had to stop).
And I made all the parts of this pattern when it came out. I always cut the armholes shorter on this dress so they would not fall down. I had several of this tunic: I could dress it up with a belt for work, and then leave off the belt on the overpacked bus ride home. Whew! I do recall standing on the way into work so I wouldn’t be wrinkled at the start…..
The sash cuts off the pockets, and always made me look as wide as a barn……
Do I have photos of any of this? Noo…..boooo……
Nice image of you riding to work and back in your PE top. I am researching the knitting patterns.
Hm, like Sue I’m emotionally scarred by this most unforgiving of decades which coincided with me being rather large so voluminous clothes were extremely depressing to be seen in (and you couldn’t miss me). But it’s certainly a contemporary-looking dress as well as kind of Grecian and looks best paired with the yellow and blue sash. You could wear with a long sleeved (stripy) top underneath to make it autumn-friendly.
I did put a top on underneath and wore it this weekend – a navy, long sleeved T and the kids complemented me on the look!
I love the dress on you, especially with the large yellow stash. This is a total success in my opinion, and perfectly appropriate for a vacation in Greece, when comes your turn! I agree with other commenters that it does look roomy in the upper part, but I think the straight line of the skirt has a nice balancing effect. On a more personal note, I was in my 20s in the 1980s and I’m rediscovering these patterns with great joy. Just made Vogue 1157 (still have to hem it) and I’m delighted with the clever simple line of the wrap.
Same here Helene, and I avoided the 1980s for years. But I think they were very radical in their own way and I have really come to appreciate the innovation, daring and design novelty that they brought into being.
Ha, ha I should have explained the wardrobe malfunction was entirely my problem after a trip to the bathroom – the back of skirt was stuck in the sash!
I love this dress on you…yes it is a bit oversized on top, but it would be perfect on a hot day in the tropics. For me, 80’s fashions are fun to remember, but never to wear. I do appreciate the aesthetic though, and love the button-down back on your dress, and the long lean silhouette. Well done!
Ha, ha I should have explained the wardrobe malfunction was entirely a self made problem after a trip to the bathroom – nothing to do with the design – the back of skirt was stuck in the sash!
Thanks for the clarification!!
Love the look of the hip wrap over the long column.
I like this, more so with the wide sash, It’s different and stylish when worn like that from today’s wear and dressed down when worn the other way. Su’s wardbrobe malfunction made me laugh who hasn’t done that at least once in their life. I’ve never heard of Perry Ellis but certainly know the 80’s. I did enjoy looking him up too.
Ahhh the 80’s when we lost our darts and everything went oversized. I agree that this would be a good dress for a hot climate or a vacation but unless you have a very proportioned body like yours, the fabric folds even with a sash would do nothing for most women. I’m with Sew2pro, it might even work as an overdress (jumper in the US) with a blouse underneath and no sash in a softer fabric. Nice fabric colors and love all the center back buttons!
Love the dress esp with the wider sash, absolutely love it. And thanks for the earlier post about those wonderful Vogue patterns. I was able to get the other Perry Ellis pattern you mentioned (sadly couldn’t find the one you’ve made here in my size at a price I was willing to pay). I loved those patterns in the 80s and thought your point about using them as the basis of an innovative capsule wardrobe was a good one.
Like earlier comments I would reshape the front neckline just a little, it looks uncomfortable and definitely doesn’t suit me. I too love these shapes made up in linen and Adri was one of my other favourites at the time – I still have the patterns, I just could not part from them
I am surprised that you fitted it to your self so badly – do you not have good fitting skills. The armhole is way to low for you and you could have vastly improved the fit in neckline and across the bust. I look at alot of your photos and question your skill. I see glaring errors in fit across everything you make – your pants are the worst. Maybe some time to improve your skills would be worthwhile for you.
Thanks Erin. I didn’t try to fit this dress, as I mentioned, I just made it up. I wanted to experience the ease with which it was designed. And thanks for the feedback! My fitting skills always need more work, I have to agree.