The “Desk Set” Christmas outfit

The Facts
: Plaid poly taffeta for dress; Burgundy wool blend and gold satin lining for coat; cotton interlining and poly lining from stash
Pattern: Simplicity 2928 and Vogue 1137
Notions: Interfacing, zipper, belting and red bakelite buckle all from stash; 4 buttons
Year: 1950′s
Time to complete
: 9  hours
First worn: December 2012
Wear again? Yes on the dress, maybe on the coat

Total Cost: Dress ~$30.00 and Coat $35.00 so a total of $65.00 plus tax

I love the movie “Desk Set”. It’s on my list of ‘must see’ movies every Christmas season, along with “Holiday Inn”, “The Grinch who Stole Christmas” (the animated one, not the Jim Carey one), “Charlie Brown’s Christmas”, “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Home Alone”. I secretly wanted to work in a Research department like the women in the movie, and the whole ‘computer’ thing never ceases to amuse : ) One of my favorite outfits has always been the very festive dress/coat combo Katherine Hepburn wears to the office party. Her version is a sage green silk wrapped around her impossibly tiny waist with a bright red coat that has a Christmas green lining so she looks like a present!

While I like the silk I was too lazy to go searching for the right color but when I found this plaid taffeta a month ago, brand new and hidden amongst some truly ugly holiday fabrics I had a hard time making a decision. I settled on this one, passing up a mulit-toned purple plaid and a green/purple plaid that I may go back for to make a fabulous 1860′s dress for Dicken’s Faire next year. For now this one makes me happy.

I chose the dress pattern for the way they manipulate the stripes/plaid. Of COURSE the pattern is a junior size (insert snorting sound here) so I needed to grade it up….way up…since I haven’t been a “junior” size in decades. The mistake I made with the muslin (yes! I made a muslin) was getting too clever for my own good. TOTAL brain fart and I adjusted the bodice so the armholes were nice and flat against my chest, like I’d do for a sleeveless dress. The problem with that little plan was when I inserted the CAREFULLY cut sleeves, so that the pattern matched up all the way across,  I COULDN’T RAISE MY ARMS : ( Couldn’t move much really… I had worked on it for about three hours to that point. I had two trains of thought on tracks so far apart it made my head spin. Thought #1 – leave them as is and fix them at some point in the future. Thought #2 – make a whole new top and take care of it NOW. I went to bed.

“We never have time to do things right but we always have time to do things over.” The next morning I bit the bullet and cut new fronts. Instead of wasting and tossing out the back pieces I carefully took the old fronts off and replaced them. It actually took me about an hour to get things back on track but it felt like half a day because of course I had lined and interlined the whole thing. Once that was fixed it took less than another hour to get the entire rest of the dress put together including those sleeves and cuffs! Then I started on the coat.

The pattern has such potential. The cover is quite charming. There are a whopping 4 pattern pieces to cut out (front, back, collar and sleeve cuffs) and the coat is “supposed” to be completely reversible. I really wanted to line it with green something but how much green anything do you suppose is left in the fabric stores a week and a half before Christmas? Not so much. Why gold? Deep sigh…I was asked to make a shroud for Ari’s coffin in Gryffindor colors. The Gryffindor lion was in the center in that gold on a burgundy background with the word “Brave” below and “Ariel” at the top. My intention was to wear the coat to the memorial to honor Ari’s love of all things Harry Potter but the shroud, while not technically challenging, was emotionally challenging and took everything I had. I didn’t get the coat any further than cut out. The lining fabric is the same fabric I used for the lion, my connection to her. I also thought I was being terribly clever, the plan being to reverse the coat for my New Years outfit. We’ll have to see, I’m not convinced it will work.

A word about this coat pattern – it it LARGE. I cut out a 16, remembering how much room I had with a similar pattern when I made my Art challenge coat. It is HUGE. And long. Again, I cut three inches off the hem before I put a 2 1/2″ hem in and I’m 5’4″, people! It was at my ANKLES and the industry thinks the average woman is 5’7″ but this would be nowhere near the length on the cover. For our taller friends (like Trish) it would probably be fabulous : )

I made the mistake of trying the coat on when all I had stitched was the shoulder, side and center back seams. Can you say sack? I decided to keep going more for curiosity sake than actual intent of wearing it. I figured I could always cut it apart and make something else. It turned out better than I thought but I’m still not convinced I’ll wear it. I still find the dress of this pattern intriguing and have plans to make it soon but will keep looking for a good, simple coat pattern.

When it came time to do pictures we were in the middle of the second of three storms. There was rain and wind, and rain being driven sideways by the wind. It was so dark all day Sunday I couldn’t get outside to do photos. The weather finally broke, and I headed downtown to take pics by the very large Christmas tree they install in our downtown plaza. The rain is no longer coming down sideways but can you tell it’s 42 degrees out? Fahrenheit, not Celsius : )

The more I wore the coat the more I liked it but those sleeve cuffs need some engineering work so they stay in place. It also needs a good press job but since I finished this challenge by the skin of my teeth, and this is just fine : ) I really LOVE the dress, it will be worn at my parents annual Christmas Eve party. If Mena doesn’t post this before I get home I’ll try to add a party pic or two!

One of the best features of the dress are the sleeve cuffs. They add that extra bit of perky to make this very festive : )

We’re not entirely sure if this is our last challenge of the year or not. I’ve had several other contributors email me to ask if I know anything (I don’t!) but I decided to go ahead and do one more before the end of the year… If Mena does another week of postings next week then you’ll see my sparkly New Years outfit : )

I wish you all a lovely Christmas, a wonderful New Year and all the Magic and Love you can handle.

2 thoughts on “The “Desk Set” Christmas outfit

  1. Love your Christmas and New Year’s posts on SW; the candle- lighting in the New Year’s post was lovely. And the reversible coat amazing. It has been a great deal of fun following your adventures in sewing this year. I’ve listed your blog under my favorites so “see” you soon! Thank you.

  2. I just wanted to stop by to tell you how much I’ve enjoyed your contributions to The Sew Weekly. You’re talents for sewing and fitting are enviable and I can only hope that someday I am able to produce such lovely garments as you!

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