Sewing La La Land: Dreamy Dresses, Sewing Tips

La La Land costume
La La Land sketch by Mary Zophres; photo from Lionsgate. (via Hollywood Reporter)

Have you seen the movie La La Land yet? In the movie Emma Stone wears a series of “retro realistic” dresses that look like you could buy them off the rack at Bloomingdale’s. (A deliberate choice, according to costume designer Mary Zophres.) But at the same time, the dresses are memorable—you find yourself thinking about the colors and the way they float as Emma dances in them.

You won’t be able to find these La La Land dresses in stores, but you can make very similar versions yourself! In today’s blog post we pair Emma’s dresses with possible patterns, and give you some sewing tips from Marcy Tilton for working with lightweight fabrics such as chiffon and georgette. Read on!

Blue dress from La La Land: Sew the look with McCall's M7281

To make your version of this party dress, here made up in a brilliant blue, use McCall’s M7281. For the bodice and skirt lining, where you need a more stable fabric, use crepe or a lightweight satin with a soft drape. For the overbodice and skirt use a floaty chiffon that will accentuate your very best dance moves.

La La Land green dress: Sew the look with Butterick B6380

With its sweetheart neckline this emerald green, date-night dress has a slightly retro feel to it. Butterick’s B6380 by Gertie is a pretty good match, especially if you convert the sleeves to a cap or flutter sleeve. Go for lightweight crepe de chines that puddle into soft folds.

La La Land yellow dress: Sew the look with McCall's M7500

This is the yellow dress you’ve probably seen in images for the movie; it’s when Emma and Ryan first dance together. McCall’s pattern (M7500) has the basic shape of the yellow dress, with the square neckline and full skirt. We’d use the tucked bodice from View D, and we’d alter the sleeves from View C or D so they’re cap sleeves. For fabrics, try a silk crepe or georgette with a delicate floral print.

Ready to sew your own La La Land dress? Here are some tips from Marcy Tilton, Vogue Patterns designer and sewing expert, on working with tricky fabrics like chiffon and georgette:Vogue Patterns designer Marcy Tilton

  • Cut sheer fabrics such as crepe and georgette using a smooth paper:
    • Lay down a layer of paper* on the cutting table, and trim the ends so they are straight (at right angles to the opposite edge). This assures that you can line up the grain of the fabric with the edges of the paper.  
    • Tear or pull a thread on the cross grain of your fabric at either cut edge to assure the grain is straight. This is key.
    • Place the fabric on top of the paper, smoothing so the grain is straight. Align the selvedge and cut edges with the paper. This assures that the grain is straight on the pattern pieces.
    • Pin the pattern through all layers and cut through all layers. The bottom paper layer keeps the soft fabric from shifting as you cut and allows you to move and mark the pieces without distorting. 
  • Buy at least a quarter yard extra to allow for shrinkage and so you have extra to test with. 
  • Test fabric scraps for needle size and stitch length. 
    • Use a small (#10/11) sharp needle, fine polyester or silk thread and short stitch length (2.0-1.5 mm).
  • Pre-treat fabric by dipping in lukewarm water and air drying. Roll in a clean towel to remove excess water. Do not put in the dryer. Steam press after pre-shrinking.
  • After sewing, hand launder and air dry. Crepe weave fabrics are created with highly twisted yarns that will shrink, sometimes just with steam, so pre-treating is essential even if you plan to dry clean. In that case, give the yardage a good steam press before cutting. 
  • Use French seams whenever possible, making them as narrow as possible. 
  • If you are going to use a serger you will have to test stitch width, length and thread weight. You want something that is thin, light and nearly invisible. 
  • Cut with a rotary cutter or scissors (in this case override the ‘rule’ about cutting paper with your special fabric tools.)
  • Mark with tailor tacks, or fine dots using a dressmaker pencil.
  • If the fabric looks the same on both sides, mark the wrong sides with stick-on label dots.
  • Plot the order of construction carefully. Leave the fabric pinned flat on the table until you are ready to sew them. Hanging/moving can sometimes cause stretching or distorting.
  • Stay-stitch front and back neck edges first thing.

* Suitable smooth papers are: surgical exam table paper, brown kraft paper or tracing paper.

Vogue Patterns V1447 Designer Dress in Downtown NYC

Vogue Patterns V1447 dress pattern by Tracy Reese.

Vogue Patterns V1447 dress pattern by Tracy Reese.

 

v1447 3

This Tracy Reese dress for Vogue Patterns is the last of our summer on-location photo shoots. Can you believe our model Karen needed to return to her regular McCall’s job of art directing?! We shot these photos in the Chase Bank plaza across the street from our office. (Managed to get in a couple of shots before a security guard gave us dirty looks, forcing us to scurry away.)

Karen loves this dress pattern and we do too. The lace and the contrasting lining are a striking combination, especially when you make it in black like the designer did. You could sew it yourself in lace and mesh, or try it all in a lightweight brocade and not worry so much about the contrast lining. This is a great dress to wear to a wedding or summer special occasion.

To help you sew it, we took photos of the inside of it and posted them to our Pinterest board “Detail Photos: Vogue Patterns.” The inside is almost as pretty as the outside:

Follow The McCall Pattern Company’s board Detail Photos: Vogue Patterns on Pinterest.

Coming tomorrow: It’s Ebenezer Butterick’s birthday and we’re giving away stuff to help celebrate! Check back then…

 

Butterick B6203 Sundress in Downtown NYC. Plus, Fringe Time!

Butterick sundress sewing pattern B6203, photographed in downtown NYC. From the McCall Pattern Company blog.

Butterick sundress sewing pattern B6203, photographed in downtown NYC. From the McCall Pattern Company blog.

Butterick sundress sewing pattern B6203, photographed in downtown NYC. From the McCall Pattern Company blog.

Butterick sundress sewing pattern B6203, photographed in downtown NYC. From the McCall Pattern Company blog.

When we were looking for dresses for Karen to wear for this photo shoot we almost said no to this new Butterick B6203 pattern. On the hanger it looked pretty…though a little plain. But then when Karen put it on and we paired it with the belt and shoes, we did a 180. It’s so cute, right?!

The great thing about this pattern is that it comes in multiple cup sizes, which will help you get a slim fit in the bodice area. And if you don’t like the skirt with tiered layers you can make it without. Comes with a cap sleeve version as well.

Butterick dress pattern B6203 comes in different views. The perfect sundress.

For fabrics, a lightweight cotton sateen with some Lycra would be cute and comfortable. Florals are big this spring and summer, or try a tropical print. Ooh, maybe a gingham? Make it in red check to match your barbecue tablecloth. (Just kidding, but maybe not, could be kinda fun.) Keep your fabric choice on the lightweight side, unless you’re going for a retro poufiness with your skirt.

Do you like these on-location photo shoots? We had fun doing them. We were able to get Karen (the model shown here who is actually our associate art director) to do one more of these shoots before her other duties claimed her, darn it. Maybe we can do some more when the fall patterns are out. Stay tuned!

• • • •

Another Fashion Sewing & You video is here! Jennifer of Workroom Social produced these creative videos with McCall’s and they’re all about inspiring you to think like a fashion designer with the patterns you sew. The latest video is perfect for the ’70s fashion trend we’re experiencing now:

Speaking of fringe, check out this very groovy pattern I found in a 1971 McCall’s catalog:
Fringed vest pattern from a 1971 McCall's catalog. From the McCall Pattern Company archives.
That guy’s mustache reminds me of Roger Sterling, so pardon me while I weep about Mad Men ending. Did you watch the finale? I’m going to miss the clothes from that show as much as I’ll miss the characters. Personally I liked seasons 6 and 7 best for the clothes, when styles loosened up a bit. Which season of the show had your favorite looks?