Barbara Dress

by Sewingthe60s on October 5, 2013 · 31 comments

in 1970s,Dresses

After taking my time to make this, I have finaly finished my Barbara Hulanicki inspired dress 

I actually finished this last weekend, but never got to take photos! Cheeky me, but finally this lovely lady is complete and I love it! Its soft and feminine and even if it’s really more 70s than 60s, I must argue – for its inspiration comes from one of the great ladies of the 60s – Barbara Hulanicki

The idea for this dress came when I saw the fabric itself – a black polyester chiffon with tiny gold foil print. The colours reminded me of Big Biba and the fabric design reminded me of the more 60s Biba dresses like the one below

Source

I was initially looking for a pattern that would replicate the above photo, but when I found this beauty at the op shop for 50 cents, I decided that this would be perfect and it suited the dress well.

This pattern is from 1975 – ironically the same year Big Biba closed, but the elements of Barbara’s style is there with the slight nod to 30s glamour. I really love this pattern – if you made it long in satin cut on the bias, you could have a gorgeous dress worthy of Carol Lombard

My version is black chiffon, lined with black crepe – here was the original idea; 

Dress with fitted bodice, a-line skirt, gathered shoulders with bishop sleeves and buttoned cuffs. 

Bodice underlined with black crepe, with sleeves to remain unlined. Cuffs to be lined in organza to keep the lightness

Zippered back, hem just above knee length

All of these elements were achieved apart from the puffed shoulders. The sleeve pattern piece I used was for a set-in sleeve and I assumed I could just push all the gathering to the top of the shoulder, but because the sleeve is actually the same size as the arm-hole no gathering was needed! So I settled for set in sleeves and I’m ok with that.

 

Sleeve shoulder detail

 

 

 

 

Front

 

Back

 

The lining was also used as the facing for the neck line. I ended up attempting something I really didn’t know how to do! The bodice was fine but I forgot to do the darts separately – you can only see them on the inside anyway.

Then I attached the skirt to the bodice and inserted the zipper in the back before joining it all together. I may have done it in the wrong order trying to be fancy and sewing the bodice as one piece. The French seams also threw me off – trying to do that, while inserting the zipper on two layers of fabric. Oh my head! At least black fabric is forgiving and you cant see the random open seams!

The sleeves are a little too short and make bending my arms a little tricky – just like the original Biba dresses which stopped their wearers from reaching and bending, ha!

But this was unintentional – The too small cuffs stop the sleeves from moving up and down my arm easily so I have to kind of change the way I move my arm for that day when I wear it

I lined the cuffs with black organza instead of interfacing. It gives a lightness to the cuff and keeps its transparency with the chiffon. You simply sew the organza onto the fabric piece before you construct it. Exactly the same as sew-in interfacing but you’re not restricted by the lack of colours and opaqueness

These are the interior French seams – the bodice seam runs across and the skirt front is the one going up. Their very comfortable and they make everything look nice and neat!

The hems were finished with rolled hems, also called narrow hems. I used this technique because the length of the skirt was perfect and I didn’t want to loose too many cm. Its also another good seam for chiffon and light fabrics as it doesn’t affect the hang.

Most sewing machines come with a special foot to achieve this, but mastering it takes some practice. These seams look neat – but you should see the start of the hem stitch – its not so neat… 

Well there you have it! I’d love to make some more Biba style dress and I’ll be sure to use this pattern again one day. 

Cat xo

This post was written by...

– who has written 17 posts on WeSewRetro.com.

60s lover from Sydney, Australia with a sewing machine and endless amounts of creative motivation

Sewingthe60s's posts / Sewingthe60s's website

{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

Aaminah October 5, 2013 at 11:08 am

Bravo!! Utterly feminine, love it.

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Catherine Alekna October 7, 2013 at 6:40 am

Thank you :)

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OnePerfectDay October 5, 2013 at 11:34 am

Lovely dress!
Looks great on you!
Well done

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Catherine Alekna October 7, 2013 at 6:40 am

Thank you!

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Siri Andersen October 5, 2013 at 11:40 am

Very chic ;) I love it!

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Catherine Alekna October 7, 2013 at 6:41 am

Why thank you! :)

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Jeanette October 5, 2013 at 12:19 pm

This is beautiful on you. I love it!

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Catherine Alekna October 7, 2013 at 7:25 am

Thank you Jeanette!

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Amber October 5, 2013 at 12:44 pm

Oooo,so rad! I got to go to Biba right before it closed when I was little and it was absolutely as fabulous as you could ever imagine. I was lucky enough to buy a dress,sage green cotton maxi with flutter sleeves and it swished with every step! Luckily because it was cotton it grew with me but became a mid calf length( Ha!).Still rockin.All the clothing you make remind me of Biba and my Moms wardrobe at the time. I wish I had all her old clothes. You are just adorable and a vision of 60s 70s London…I just loooove your posts. XO!

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Catherine Alekna October 7, 2013 at 7:27 am

Ooooh wow! I wish i could have gone! All the descriptions of the Biba clothing only add to the legend!
Thank you for your kind words – i wish i could have been there to see it all!

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Deb October 5, 2013 at 12:55 pm

Oh my! This is gorgeous and so feminine! I love it!

I have that same hat I think, but mine is lighter in color… :)

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Catherine Alekna October 7, 2013 at 7:27 am

Thank you! Its such a fun hat – so floppy! I have a tan version as well but the black one gets more wear

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Lauriana October 5, 2013 at 3:31 pm

What a great dress!
As far as I know, you captured the Biba and Barbara Hulanicki look very well here.
And chiffon is such a difficult fabric to work with. Especially when trying to make tiny rolled hems. I tend to opt out of making those even on more stable fabrics like taffeta or satin, mostly because I hate how the starting point looks. And any place where you have to cross a seam.

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Catherine Alekna October 7, 2013 at 7:29 am

Why thank you! Chiffon is such a pain, and i recently bought more to make blouses! eek have i just signed my own sewing death warrant? hopefully not! But the rolled seams are ok after the first few inches!

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YoungSeamstress October 5, 2013 at 5:22 pm

Love it! Congrats on dealing with the chiffon, too. That stuff is so hard to work with! I made a dance costume with some poly chiffon once and I’m not in a hurry to make another one. But this looks great!

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Catherine Alekna October 7, 2013 at 7:30 am

Thanks! Oh i do love when dancers are in flowy beautiful chiffon. Although its a pain to sew with it works so nicely with the movements. Good on you for making one though!

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ksgentry October 5, 2013 at 8:32 pm

Simply amazing, I would have never guessed that it was handmade! The pairing of chiffon with crepe make the outfit look so delicate! The fabric choices gives the dress pattern a whole new look! Great job!

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Catherine Alekna October 7, 2013 at 7:32 am

Thanks! Im actually considering more chiffon projects! a glutton for punishment i have! The crepe kinda stabilized the chiffon when i was assembling the bodice so that is a good tip sorta…

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BobbinBombshell October 6, 2013 at 9:27 am

Really pretty on you! Fantastic job!

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Catherine Alekna October 7, 2013 at 7:32 am

Thank you! xo

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Gillian October 6, 2013 at 10:54 am

Stunning, my favourite of all your posts so far. Great fabric find, can imagine how difficult it must of been to sew. Well done.

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Catherine Alekna October 7, 2013 at 7:35 am

Oh thank you! I was such a surpise fabric to find in Lincraft – which is kind like our Jo-anns. You don’t always get nice special fabrics there. But i was pretty ok to sew with in the end

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datura October 6, 2013 at 12:20 pm

This is beautiful…it fits you perfectly, and I admire your bravery dealing with that damned chiffon. Love the sheer sleeves!

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Catherine Alekna October 7, 2013 at 7:36 am

Thank you! it was ok in the end, but the rolled hems were tricky

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Evie October 6, 2013 at 6:49 pm

I cannot tell you how much I LOVE this dress!!!

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Catherine Alekna October 7, 2013 at 7:36 am

oh yay! im glad you do! xo

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EmSewCrazy October 7, 2013 at 4:26 pm

This looks great. Fabulous dress with fabulous fabric. You did a great job with all the finishing too.
Hope your next versions turn out as well!

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Sewingthe60s October 8, 2013 at 5:36 am

thank you! I’ll have to start coming up with ideas for my next one :)

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Vix October 8, 2013 at 5:05 am

oh Cat, you know I adore that dress! If I were a rich girl I’d pay to to make all my clothes! x

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Sewingthe60s October 8, 2013 at 5:39 am

hehe! if i didn’t have so many bills and rent id just sew all day for everyone!

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mod girl November 14, 2013 at 5:29 am

This is perfect! It’s such a beautiful dress. Well done!

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