Mar 10, 2012

Designer patterns

Dear readers, I just finished hemming a secret project I undertook at the behest of a new website that has yet to launch. Actually, I'm not sure if it's super secret — they never expressly told me not to discuss it with my legion of readers — but if I pretend it is, it makes me feel a little special. Anyway, this latest project was sewn from this Cynthia Rowley pattern, which has me thinking about "designer" patterns. 

Cute, right?

 The concept of designer patterns is nothing new. Ladies like me who love fashion but can't afford Fifth Avenue pricetags have been making their own versions of designer's at least since the '60s:

Why yes, this IS Dior. Now leave me alone.
Today some of those patterns are a hot ticket item on eBay et al. Like Diane Von Fursternberg's wrap dress. A more contemporary version of this dress pattern is on eBay with a "buy it now" price of $150! Of course, there are no bids, so $150 could be the sucker price. You can buy a vintage DVF wrap dress for only a little more than that on

Over at Vogue patterns, I do think some of the designer patterns are among the nicest the company offers. Like this DKNY dress, V1287. The details are sort of lost in this print they used for the sample, but it has very pretty pleating and draping through the front:

This Badgley Mischka for Vogue pattern is unusual and chic. Comparing this dress to the designer's line on sale at, a Badgley Mischka dress like this would probably cost in the neighborhood of $500. Sequined fabric like that usually isn't cheap either, but the pattern calls for less than two yards of fabric (if cut from a 60-inch bolt), so even at, let's say, $25/yard, you're still looking at a price way less than you would pay at Century 21 in three years (and for a size XL).

Back to Cynthia Rowley. I still can't forgive her for how rude she was to Whitney, the "plus-sized contestant" on Top Model from Cycle 10, for being too big for any of her samples. But her patterns for Simplicity are cute and very wearable.

I LOVE this one, even though I don't get what the elbow slits are for. Are we lactating out of our elbows now? 

And did you know Leanne Marshal, Project Runway Season 5 winner, has a small line of patterns for Simplicity? They're much less wearable than Cynthia Rowley's separates, but let you try out a few of the design details that are her signature. 

Those ruffles could be hard to pull off for a pear-shaped lady like myself, but that printed dress in the middle is cute, right?
Alas, this is very Tinkerbell-goes-to-prom. Also, it requires about four yards of fabric, a lot for a misses dress that will only be puked on once.

So readers, what do you think? Are "designer" dress patterns overrated? Do you have any favorites in your collection? 


  1. My personal stand on it is somewhat the same as yours. The designer patterns are overpriced and overrated. Most of the offered designs are either unrealistic for an average wearability or way too plain to fork out the asking price. DKNY dress and the printed blue Leanne Marshall dresses are fab for us, pears, but that kind of pattern can be found in sewing magazines or even constructed yourself, provided you spend some time learning how-to's (in fact, sometimes I think if you can draft and model your patterns yourself- you have the best formula for looking fab!- All you have to do then is look around and steal the ideas))) . But then again- I, myself, have been putting learning this amazing skill off and still use commercial patterns (mostly Burda Magazine) . Oh, Laziness! ))))))))))

    1. P.S. HOWEVER the videos on Leanne's patterns are very useful- use and abuse I say!

  2. I don't reach for designer patterns just because they're designer patterns, but sometimes they add interesting styles to otherwise ho-hum pattern lines. I do wonder how much involvement these designers have in the pattern drafting process anyway. I have a couple Cynthia Rowley patterns since so many of her separates are fairly casual and very wearable, but I'm still mad at her for dogging Mondo's design and making him cry on Project Runway All Stars a few weeks ago. Funny how we've both been unimpressed by her reality show behavior. Anyway, I also like Tracy Reese for Vogue patterns but haven't bought any yet.

    1. You're right! She was mean to Mondo, who is a delicate little flower. I just love him. I hope he wins this time.

  3. I usually buy the designer patterns for one of two reasons: it's a very nice basic but timelessly classic shape that can be futzed with and personalized OR they've got a unique (but not out of this world) aspect that I'd like to try sewing/wearing. A lot of the time, I pass them over because they seem to either have a design element that I would never be able to wear (the ruffled hips on the Leanne Marshall above) or are just too trendy for my taste.

  4. Can't wait to see this super secret website! I really like the new simplicity designer patterns but I can't find them anywhere in Scotland yet...grumbly, grumbly :) No idea how they'll actually look all sewn up! Thank goodness for pattern review!

  5. I'm a big fan of the Cynthia Rowley patterns. I feel like they are a lot more modern than many of the standard "big 4" offerings and the sizing also seems to be a bit more on the order of less in the department of ease. I'm currently sewing McCalls 5850 in a strapless version. The measurements provide an UNGODLY amount of ease. For a strapless dress!

    1. Funny you should mention the amount of ease in Cynthia Rowley's patterns...I was surprised at how much was included in Simplicity 1872. According to the pattern envelope, I should be a size 12-14. But after making a muslin, and sewing the dress, I think a Size 6 would fit the best. I plan on making it again and adding a narrow elastic waistband to distribute the ease evenly through the waist. I guess the ease in this dress allows you to slip it over your head (and not have to sew in a zipper). I'd rather have a zip down the back and good fit. My figure needs all the help that a good fit can give it!



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