Feb 15, 2013

Show A Little Skin — Whither the Sexy Patterns?

Are sewers an especially modest lot? Or is there some other good reason why it's nearly impossible to find patterns that show a little skin?

While on a recent Mood shopping outing with Oonaballoona, we were talking about a certain independent pattern company that both of us found to be a bit....modest. That's the nice way to put it, I guess. Matronly would the not-so-nice way. But then I realized this company is not the only one. Of all the independent pattern companies I know of, I can't find many patterns that you could call sexy — except in the way that a buttoned-up blouse can be sexy by concealing the wild woman within.

Boat necks. Peter Pan collars. Lots of buttons and gathers, but not alot of sex appeal — that's what I see  out there.

Is there not enough mass appeal in plunging necklines or collarbone-baring details? Or is it a function of the fact that most of us are sewing with wovens, which pose fit problems when it comes to plunging necklines?

To that end, I think of Burdastyle.com's Cap Sleeve Dress, which I had to adjust to correct gaping at the neckline (a problem many others also seemed to have). The end result was a higher neckline (and no hope for a hint of cleavage):



Meanwhile this Simplicity dress (1872) I sewed a few versions of last year was way too modest, in my opinion. After the first version (on the left below) I chopped an inch and a half off the front overlapping neckline, (but then I had to add a hook-and-eye to keep it from collapsing and revealing all — still much more flattering, I think):



The one true sexy, skin-baring item I have sewn is Burdastyle's Bustier Dress with Draped detail, A.K.A. Gertie's Bombshell Dress. (On which I raised the sweetheart neckline by an inch, by the way!). It's not exactly every day wear though:




In the spirit of public service, I searched for a few skin-baring patterns. Burdastyle seemed to have the most:






Among independents, there's Salme Patterns sundress (kind of bare, though I don't think you would have any cleavage showing):


And Grainline's Kat Strapless Dress, which is pretty bare through I think the sweetheart neckline and empire waist make it look more girly than sexy:


Hot Patterns has this Deco Vibe Dress, which has a plunging neckline (though they keep it modest with a turtleneck underneath! Ack! No!):




This is about as sexy as it gets at Simplicity:

Over at Vogue there are plenty of patterns with sex appeal, and a few with slightly more daring necklines. I think a higher ratio of patterns that are sewn in knits could be the reason why. I'm loving V1343, a Tracey Reese for Vogue pattern. It's not a lot of skin, but it's a start:



Meanwhile at McCalls, this is the only hint of cleavage I saw (M6560) and I would not say this dress is very sexy; it looks like an apron from the back — not exactly the message I want to send on a hot date with my husband:


Am I missing some major supplier of sexy patterns? (Or do those of you who like to slut it up just use your French curve to draw a deeper neckline and hope for the best?)

46 comments:

  1. Hmmm... I've made Colette's Parfait, and it's got a big of cleev and is quite bust-enhancing. but other that that - you are right! It works greta for workwear or me, where I have to be able to sit on the floor or bend over a student's desk without flashing anything.... but I wonder why we don't favour sexy patterns more!?

    (Oh - a friend just made Gertie's other dress, and it's sexy too! http://handmadebyheatherb.blogspot.ca/2013/02/butterick-5814-finished-sewing-dare.html )

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    1. That is some nice cleavage! Bravo to your friend.

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  2. Yeah, it is a sad, unsexy world in patterns for the most part. Every time I research a more sexy project I do go look at Burdastyle. Although I did find this at Simplicity the other day: http://www.simplicity.com/p-5263-misses-corsets.aspx I guess they're thinking that anyone who tries to sew their own wardrobe or grocery bags or lunchbox isn't so focused on looking sexy - their either practical or perhaps very religious.

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    1. Corsets are in a category of their own, aren't they. They're not really day-to-day sexy (until you frequent Ren Faires).

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  3. You know, I never even thought about this, but it's so true! There are some with some cleavage or sex appeal, but not many. I made New Look 6557, and that shows off some cleavage in most of its variations. Some other more sexy patterns in my collection are the dress and blouse in Vogue 1042, Simplicity 2337, I'm hoping Simplicity 2145 (the crossover bodice), Butterick 5383, and Vogue 1227. I guess I subconsciously like to buy patterns with more sex appeal. :) I also find that vintage 70s patterns can be super low-cut. I hope this helps you find something a little more appropriate for date night out!

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    1. Yeah, Abby! You are the source for sexy patterns. Thanks for posting.

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  4. I find a lot of independent patterns to be rather girly - peter pan collars, gathered skirts etc, which doesn't shout va va voom to me. It's probably easier to slut it up on the bottom half - pencil and mini skirts ahoy.

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    1. I know, I know. I wish I had the legs for minis!

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    2. I bet your legs are perfectly fine. Thick black tights and boots takes the edge off it. I'm making Vogue 1247 at the moment which everyone says comes up short. I'm 6 foot tall, and not adding any length and am feeling rather smug with all that admiring of my own chutzpah.

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    3. i LOVE v1247, i have made it 3 times, and i refuse to lower the hem. you rock that mini in your 6 foot self! :-) (and it looks awesome with boots)

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  5. hmmm... never thought about this! the top 1/4 of me is technically petite (even though i'm 5'8") so unless i do a petite adjustment my necklines always look plunging! my sewing is way more "daytime" than "date night" though. then again, a plunging neckline on me just looks sad... i'll stick to showing a little leg. ;-)

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  6. ah, you must peep kristiann at victory patterns! definitely sexy, shows skin in a different way.

    i love the stages of your first two dresses, gapey to perfect, it's like some some sort of experiment. and... i have that simplicity maxi dress. it is surprisingly sexy. i had to sew up three inches of the neckline so i wouldn't get arrested.

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    1. I love Victory Patterns looks. They're very unique and a little sexier for sure (though still quite covered up!). I want to make the Anouk.

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  7. I was seriously just thinking this this morning! I finished my first renfrew, and aside from the size being enormous (even though I sized it up based on the finished measurements and everything) the scoop neckline is still almost a crewe- I don't understand! I have decent boobs, and I'm not scared of a little cleavage, but seriously, the only time I can find it is when I draft my own patterns, which sucks! I don't understand why everyone is so scared of more flattering necklines? What's the point in being able to make our own clothes if they make us look like nuns?? Bah. Sorry. This became a bit of a rant! I just wanted to say, in essence, that I'm feeling you!

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    1. Your reply has me singing in my, "Ooh ooh ooooooh, I wanna sex it up!" (a la Color Me Badd).

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  8. I have a few in my stash that veer towards sex-kitten, but I totally agree with you that they are difficult to find! Mine are not from independent companies sadly, but they are McCalls M6281 (great back cutouts), Vogue V1174 (I like the corset-like top, and you could always sub a pencil skirt for the pleated skirt), McCalls M6699, Vogue V1285, and Vogue V8379. Granted, these are all in my stash meaning I haven't made them myself, but I bought them for the potential sex appeal in the design. You definitely bring up an interesting subject...while I'm currently going through a full-skirt obsession, I always want to balance that with a tight-fitting bodice or some unexpected cutouts. Great post!

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  9. I don't think sex appeal is all about how low the neckline is, it's also about bare backs and tight fits which are everywhere.

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  10. I've never thought about it, but you are so right! I usually draft my own patterns, so I'll just alter my block patterns to whatever shape I like. Honestly though, as most of my sewing either is for work or for dance (or both!) and I have quite a lot of clevage to show, I like my clothes to keep my "ladies" covered =) No fun with collegues or dance-partners who struggles to look everywhere except my bust!

    On the other hand, even disregarding low vs high neckline, there's still something off with most sewing patterns. Another reason I'm happy I had to learn to draft! Most patterns are either juvenile cute or matronly, there's few options for a sophisticated, sexy woman (in my dreams, that's what my patterns turn me into =) ). Grown up, decent but feminine, is that really so hard? Maybe it is.

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  11. Lekala does some skimpier patterns, although they sometimes tend to be a bit '90s style.

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    1. I came of age in the '90s, so maybe they'll be nostaligiac enough for a re-do

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  12. Style Arc and Marfy are far more fashion forward than anything the Big 4 produces

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    1. I love all the new pattern companies you ladies are recommending!

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    2. Style Arc has their own web site, Marfy does as well but also sells via McCall's (who as we know owns three of the Big 4 brands) both are non-US based. Style Arc is Australian and Marfy is Italian. Marfy patterns are sold in single sizes only and they are pre-cut by hand with minimal markings, Style Arc patterns are like Kwik Sew ,e.g. they come printed on a big sheet of hard white paper and are traced off. Expect to pay more for both: in the $16 to $20 range plus international shipping. Both companies produce great fashion forward looks and the patterns are flawlessly drafted, they go together like a dream. And no peter pan collars or cutesy details on either brand!

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  13. I've honestly never thought about this, but you are right. I am a bit of modest person so maybe that's why I never noticed, but one thing that I often notice is that the sewing community is very focused on the "sweet" factor which I kinda don't love all of the time. It makes me feel like I look like a child.

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    1. I hear you. I made a vow not to make anything for myself this year that has gathers.

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  14. Wow that is so true. I've never thought about that before. I guess I contributed my modest sewing items to be from the fact that I usually like to cover up but it's true, even if I Did want to show a little skin there aren't many options out there. I wonder if it's because most pattern companies assume that the majority of their patterns are going to the stereotypical 60 year old lady who sews? Interesting, very interesting. I say it's time for a revolt!

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    1. I'll refute the notion of a "60 year old lady who sews" because I'm 54 and I'm just as interested in fashion as I was when I was younger, a lot of sewers my age reject the whole "old lady" thing pretty strongly.

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  15. Do you think it has something to do with the demographics? I know that I definitely wore skimpier things when I was late teens early twenties. Now i prefer to be a little more covered up. I'm curious what demographic indie pattern companies design for. Butterick seems to have a few sexier patterns. I've seen several that look super short and tight. And there are lots of backless things out in big 4 patterns now.

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  16. I agree with you completely. Burda definitely has the sexiest patterns that I've seen. In fact, I often buy their plus size issues because they photograph larger women so that they look sexy and desirable, and that is inspiring, even tho I haven't sewn any of the patterns. Unfortunately, blog writers often complain about Burda's plunging necklines and suggestive photos.

    Demographics is a key issue (Hotpatterns, whom I love, seems to focus on women who work in offices), but I wonder if the body block also matters. The standard big 4 draft is for B cups, and its usually the larger size cups that can show cleavage well and the smaller cups that can handle a plunge like the one in the Burda pattern you featured.

    The net effect is that it does make sewing less attractive for people who like body conscious styles. I resisted sewing my own clothes, at first, because the patterns do feed the reputation that home seamstresses are frumpy. Fortunately, my home sewn clothes don't have to be, and hopefully aren't, frumpy.

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  17. I've honestly never thought about it, but you're right. I'm extremely flat-chested, so plunging necklines do nothing for me. But I try to find more tightly fitted things to accentuate my positives. That's why I started sewing in the first place, actually -- to make things that fit and flatter.

    On a totally unrelated but related note, do you mind sharing how you fixed that gaping neckline on the Burda cap sleeve dress? I made he dress for my sister and had the same problem!

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    1. I posted about how to fix that issue here: http://mybeaubaby.blogspot.com/2012/03/bust-rotation-for-new-and-improved.html

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    2. Thank you very much! That helps a lot!

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  18. Knipmode does some fairly hot stuff from time to time. Best bet is to pick up a couple of their summer issues (lots of low cut/ spaghetti strap/ strapless etc stuff). La Mia Boutique also has some pretty catwalk type styles (and some crazy stuff too). Neither is in English (Dutch and Italian) but that is not a problem if you have had some experience sewing. Also Patrones which does patterns from RTW brands (designer and high street) and is in Spanish. All of these are mags like Burda so tracing is required. I'd suggest investing in an adjustable double wheel and Carbon paper if you're thinking of getting into any of them if not try Lekala and StyleArc patterns.

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  19. So can we talk about that grey dress you made from simplicity 1872? (the one in the middle)

    Did you maybe blog about that one because I really want to know how the skirt is....is it tiered too or just one piece? (I LOVE that one!)

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  20. What a wonderful combination of colors and beautiful patterns. I'm a big fan of sewing and I often make my own pieces of clothing or other decorative items. Looking at some of those pictures what immediately came to my mind was my favorite fabric store called King Textiles here in Toronto where I usually find everything I need to design my own products. I have to admit I sometimes spend hours and hours just wandering round the shop trying to find some inspiration for my next pieces. :)

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  21. hmm, i kind of get the impression that fancy cocktail dress/sexy nighttime date dress patterns don't sell as well for the big four compared to day time stuff. a lot of sewists are drawn to pretty sparkly things then if they make them they find that they never wear them and them go back to cute day wear. how many times do you wear your bombshell dress out, in day light, at the grocery store, taking your kid to pre-school? i have one strapless dress and i can count how many times i've worn it in three years on one hand. i certainly wouldn't describe myself as "modest" (ugh, modest just makes me think of mormon which makes me think of hideous wedding dresses) but i am practical and sometimes skimpy dresses just aren't going to work for me. also, i could wear a v-neck that goes to my belly button and i still wouldn't have any cleavage. there's just nothing there to cleave!

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  22. This doesn't bother me that much. I try on a lot of RTW dresses that fit except for how my bra is sticking out, so I like that I can make it not when sewing. To me the sexiness factor in the pattern is a matter of fitting, and the zillion inches of ease in the dresses the model is wearing is the real issue.

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  23. I'm a year late to the party, alas.

    I think this "sexy pattern" issue has to do with a) a lot sewers make their own clothes in response to RTW is so often skin-baring these days (like sleeveless dresses); b) clinging clothes (at least that cling in the "right" places) are harder to fit. A loose smock is a cinch, by contrast; c) the influence of the Japanese "Mori girl" aesthetic -- particularly among many of the independents. Lots of layers, layers, layers.

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  24. Just found this post via What Would Nancy Drew Wear and immediately added you to my blog roll (you had me at ps. I'm not a Mormon (HA HA HA)). Couldn't agree more with you here... hence why most of my pattern release plans over the next year definitely skew sexy. I'm not a huge fan of sweet, unless its dessert. A lot of our blog buds pull it off perfectly but it's just not me. I just wrote a very detailed blog post about where my tendency to dress on the sexier side comes from.
    http://closetcasefiles.blogspot.ca/2014/02/meditations-on-defining-style.html

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  25. Can't believe no ones mentioned By Hand London, particularly Anna, so many on the web that are comfortable, practical and sexy!

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    1. This is an old post, so I believe it predates the Anna by many, many months. By Hand London is much edgier than many other patternmakers, for sure.

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  26. great post! reading it, i realized that i'm not a cleavage person - IBTC - but that what i love is a pattern that is fitted, confident, and LEGGY. (i do have, IMHO, nice legs)

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  27. Yay! A post from you! Welcome sight, for sure. No clue about patterns that show skin. As a good Southern Baptist preacher's daughter I've spent my life trying to stay covered. ;)
    I hope you and yours are well and happy.

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    1. Alas, it's an old post! But I got linked to, which means I'm getting some fresh comments, which is fun!

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