a while back I got a bit obsessed with indie designer Christy Dawn’s beautiful vintage inspired designs. The lookbooks are basically like hipster catnip, with minimally made up models wandering around beautiful landscapes and climbing on old cars in gorgeous flowing cotton dresses.
The website has a lot of crap about buying deadstock fabric and thus helping save the environment which I have to call bullshit on, but the designs are still gorgeous, and it’s cool that they are sewn up in the US. At around $200 per dress, the pricetag is a little rich for my blood (not that I begrudge them that- since I know better than most how much work goes into creating a garment). Also I’m not likely to pay for something as long as I can make it myself , so over the last few weeks I set out to do some Christy Dawn copycatting.
Number One was this adorable collared shirt dress.
This is the Piper Dress. The one pictured above isn’t available anymore, but here’s a version in a different fabric. I love the tiny collar and little sleeves. I made my version in a lightweight cotton chambray that I picked up at Sewfisticated months ago and have been hoarding. Over the course of the last couple of years I’ve become a big fan of working with what I’ve got. I take patterns that I already own and have already traced and taken the time to fit perfectly to my body, and then I alter them into whatever I want. It’s so much faster than buying a new pattern, tracing it, making a muslin, altering etc. Plus there are no new instructions to read. So that technique is exactly what I used to create this dress.
I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what that kind of sleeve is called, so I ended up just drafting one to the best of my ability and I think it turned out pretty well. For the bodice, I redrafted my Vanamo bodice into a button down, and added the aforementioned self drafted sleeves. I get so much mileage out of that bodice- it’s basically become my sloper at this point. I think I’ve used it upwards of 10 times now.
The skirt is a sort of hacked Zinnia skirt. I used the pleated version but just ended up gathering it. This same combination of franken-patterning can also be viewed in my Zinnamo dress from earlier this year. I think the juxtaposition of these two dresses makes for a good example of how much variation you can achieve with patterns you already own. For those of you keeping score at home, I saved a lot of money on this dress. I spent probably $15 on the fabric, and the patterns were all ones I already have and have used many times. so that’s about a $185 discount…..
If I could change anything about this dress, I would probably ditch the zinnia pattern and just go for a straight dirndl skirt, because the skirt has just a bit more volume than I really want. In fact, I am already working on a second version in stripes, so stay tuned for the dirndl relaunch, ladies and gentleman. The second thing I would change is to use larger, white buttons– as in the Christy Dawn version. I was really jonesing to finish mine and wear it to work the next day, so I got lazy and just used standard men’s shirt buttons. Not quite as cool.
This is the Leone Dress. It seemed like a perfect breezy summer outfit. It manages to show a lot of leg while the sleeves, loose silhouette, and high neckline keep it demure. AKA very short skirt but still office appropriate, just the way I like it. My version didn’t turn out quite as awesome as this one, but I do still like it and have been wearing it around. The trouble lies in my fabric choice. I loved this blush color, but I couldn’t find quite the right thing anywhere. I ended up settling for a cherry red cotton lawn, thinking that the lawn would be cooler than the rayon that the original is made of, but would still look good (and because I liked the color). As it turned out, the lawn wrinkles like a motherfucker, and losing the drape of the rayon ended up being a bigger loss than I anticipated. Alas, I’ll just have to keep searching for that perfect rayon challis….
For my version, I hacked up the Grainline Scout Tee. I raised the neckline, added pleats to the shoulders, and stuck a collar and cuffs on there. Not too much else to say about this one, as it was very quick and easy! Given another chance I might redraft the collar. I just used a collar piece I had lying around, and the fact that it isn’t drafted for this neckline kind of shows :/
I do still like the dress, though it didn’t turn out exactly as planned. I think it will also work well with leggings now that the weather is cooling off.
This one is the signature “Dawn” dress. The thing that caught my eye about this dress is the gathered yoke in the front and back. It’s very ’40s inspired, and I’ve had something vaguely along those lines on my “to make” list for quite some time. To make my version, I bought a lovely floral cotton lawn at Gather Here. It was a bit of a splurge (thought still a hell of a lot cheaper than buying the dress from Christy Dawn lolllll), but the fabric was just so lovely that I couldn’t pass it up. I also got some adorable blue buttons while I was there.
I liked the overall idea of the Christy Dawn version of this dress, but the details didn’t do it for me. First off, I don’t do tea length. I just don’t think it looks good on me. So step one was to shorten the skirt. I used the skirt pattern from Colette’s macaron dress, which has been a favorite of mine in the past. For the bodice of the dress, I love the gathered yoke, but I’m not a fan of wrap dresses. I knew I wanted mine to have the gathering detail and the v-neck, but be a button down instead of a wrap.
I did something I’ve never done before for this dress, which was purchase a vintage pattern! The pattern is Simplicity 4865 and I got it from this etsy shop.
This was my first time sewing up a vintage pattern, and it was a lot of fun! I was anticipating brittle old pattern pieces with no markings and bare-bones instructions, but that wasn’t the case at all. The pattern was in great shape, and everything was well marked. I loved that only the size I ordered was in the envelope, and that each piece was already cut out. I think that’s standard for vintage patterns, and it made it a lot easier to trace the pieces. The instructions were also not bad, though maybe for a beginner they would have been harder to follow. I made the v-neck version, and left off all of the ruffles.
here’s a detail shot of that gathered yoke:
The only alterations I made were to shorten the sleeves significantly -longer sleeves just looked really dowdy. A little TOO vintage, if ya know what I mean, shorten the bodice to end at my natural waist (to meet the skirt), and convert the front and back waist darts into pleats.
Of the three dresses, I think this one might be my favorite. It came out so beautifully, and I’ve been wearing it all the time. The floral fabric really steals the show!
Well, this is the end of the post but not the end of my Christy Dawn copycatting. Last night I cut out another version of the Piper dress, this time in stripes. And who knows, if I ever find the perfect rayon, I may give the leone dress another shot.