How to knock off Vivien of Holloway…featuring UNICORNS!

Finally got round to making the dress I cut out several weeks ago.

Partly this dress came about because I am skint at the moment and had all the bits to make it lying round, so it didn’t require any additional money spent, and partly because half my friends have Vivien of Holloway dresses and they are very expensive and I wanted one too, so I decided to make my own.

The style I decided to go for was this one… the kind of iconic Marylin Monroe dress, in a novelty print. Luckily I had the ideal novelty print from my favourite market stall (as documented here) . Its taken me a while to get round to it, as its kind of frivolous sewing and I had usefull stuff to make and I thought it would be a lot more complicated than what I normally make, which it was, though not half as bad as I expected.

The first issue was choosing a pattern; practically every fashion company now and in the 50’s has a version of this dress knocking around so there were a lot of options to choose from. I decided to go for a modern version as although there are actually patterns from the 50’s that fit me without alteration, it can be a bit hit and miss finding them, and I’d already worked out this was going to be a pattern needing boning, so I wanted it to be as simple as possible.

I ended up going for simplicity 3823  which doesn’t look anything like, but when I google image searched it, a load of lovely stuff came out including several plus sized attempts that looked the part perfectly. Also the other useful looking option was a vogue pattern, which tend to be a lot more complicated, and also I know how to adapt simplicity patterns for my size fairly well these days. Which is just as well really…..

On opening the pattern and inspecting it, I have no idea how one could practically make a mock up (muslin/toille/whatever) without making entire thing lining and all, as the bones were to be sewn into the seam allowances on the lining, so seeing as pretty though it is, the unicorn fabric was £2 a meter, which is a quid cheaper than the lining, and there is enough left over after making the dress to allow me to make something else, I decided to wing it.

As the sewing process progressed it got even more nerve-racking as it became apparent there was no point built into the sewing process to fit the thing as you went along. The first chance I got to properly try it for size was just before I put the zip in at the end!

So I went for a size 16, which is my usual size in simplicity, though a bit of a risk as my weight ballooned about a month and a half ago, and its only just beginning to come back down again. And a size 14 on the tits, cuz simplicity patterns always assume your knockers are enormous, but I enlarged it a bit across the back just incase.

Construction wise it was easier than I thought, I was really nervous as all the hard bits were at the beginning. Boning was a pain, but made much easier by ignoring their instructions to sew it into its casing immediately and I left it to the last possible minute, that way I got to adjust it for length and bending in the right direction before permanently sewing it in.

Oh yeah, and the fabric was evil, it wrinkled if I left it alone for five seconds so I was ironing it all the time, frayed like anything, and wasn’t overly keen on having stitches unpicked.

Anyway, enough boring technical stuff… here it is…..

simplicity 3823 unicorns     unicorns halterneck

you’ll have to excuse my horrible arms in second picture, as usual when I put on weight it goes disproportionately onto the tops of my arms. I  have 3 medical conditions that screw with your weight, but to my knowledge non of them specifically do that to you. i have tried showing doctors and saying ‘this is wierd, help!’ but non of them seem to think theres anything abnormal about it. Anyway….

with a cardigan/bolero how I would normally wear it….

unicorn dress with bolero     unicorn dress 2

which looks much better I think. I am well happy I have a cardigan thingy to match actually. my mum bought it me several years ago to go with a dress for someones wedding I don’t think I fit into anymore, it has been sitting in the back of m wardrobe for ages, and its the perfect colour match for the unicorns.

I’m so relieved, it fits spot on, well ok, it could be about 2 cm bigger for comfort, but then the boning would be pointless. I think it is about an inch and a half too short on the legnth though. (will make it longer next time)

Inside the dress..


pretty tidy lining


underskirt simplicity3823


The underskirt has a built in net petticoat. Actually if I was making this again, I’d either leave the petticoat out, or use the skirt pattern to cut the pieces rather than use the petticoat pattern as although the built in net gives you a fairly nice everyday poof, the shape of the petticoat means you can’t put a proper net one underneath it, which would make it properly foofy. Its ok for now though as i need a knee length black net petticoat and can’t afford one at the moment, (and really can’t be arsed to make one…I hate sewing with net!) so this will do.

neck fastener simplicity 3823


This is the neck fastener, it was actually a bit of a buggerup! I lost the pattern piece for making fabric loops to go round the buttons as it was tiny, so I used elastic I had lying around instead, but ideally the elastic loops needed to be smaller and thinner and they wouldn’t lie straight when I sewed them in, so I’ve had to use oversized buttons to compensate. I almost never have my hair up though so it doesn’t really matter.

We are going on holiday to Suffolk for a week on Sunday so no sewing. When I get back we will be finishing redecorating and reorganising the flat, and then I am going to have to get to grips with the overlocker. (unless I get bored and decide to make my Hello Kitty/Kiss dress instead!)



2 thoughts on “How to knock off Vivien of Holloway…featuring UNICORNS!

  1. Pingback: finally finished overlocking | euphoricstimuli

  2. Pingback: beautiful monsters – the ones that didn’t quite make it. | euphoricstimuli

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