Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Simplicity 3948: The 'Chocolate and Wine' Dress

Yes, it does happen. I do occasionally sew from patterns other than McCall!  This is my Valentine's Day 'Chocolate and Wine' dress or also known as the world's longest UFO (unfinished object).  If you followed me back in 2011 on the Sew Weekly, you will have seen parts of this dress then.

I used Simplicity 3948 from 1941.  The original theme was to sew a dress inspired by a designer.  I chose Elizabeth Hawes, an American designer who started in the 1930s and continued on into the 1940s.

My inspiration piece was the 'Little Moose' dress designed in 1938:

I love how the light brown fabric looks almost like a bolero.  My real inspiration, of course, came from the colours of two of my favourite things: chocolate and wine!!   I made the bodice piece in a contrasting fabric to mimic the 'fauxlero' look.

I used two crepe-back satin fabrics with the crepe side out.  It was really tricky sewing the bodice pieces together so I made sure to baste them together first and then slowly topstitch the entire piece.  The real tricky part (and the reason I put this down for *cough* more than two years) was the front closure.  You see the dress has a side zipper but also has a front closure which could either be buttons and loops or a zipper closure.  I tried the fabric loops (which I detest--my least favourite sewing chore is turning fabric loops inside out…ahhh! drives me crazy!)  Well, it took me two years to think, 'hey, maybe I should just put a zipper in the front and get on with it!'

Overall, I'm happy with how the dress turned out.  You'll notice it's shorter than I wear my dresses.  I usually never show my knees! hahaha.  I think it works well though with the weight of the fabric!

If you are going to wear a dressed named 'Chocolate and Wine', then it makes sense to go to the Chocolate Tree, Edinburgh's chocolate cafe.  Their sign explains the significance:

They have yummy chocolate drinks.  The one on the left is a latte with hazelnut gelato ice cream and of course, a salty hazelnut desert. Yum, yum.  Of course, they make their own chocolate and you can buy chocolate bars and pieces at their takeaway counter.  We sat right in the window of the cafe and it was funny the number of people that walked by and then doubled back to come in!

Right, now where were we before I got distracted by the chocolate?  Oh yes, the dress.  While the front is all sorts of snazzy, the back is pretty straightforward with the bodice attached to the waist by a lapped seam.

Since we started talking about chocolate, I might as well take it full circle and let you in on the secret to my happiness.  Wine!  David and I love a good bottle of wine with dinner and a couple of years ago we started keeping a wine journal in one of our regular notebooks.  We paste in the label, write the vintage, alcohol content,  and varietal, as well as what we had for dinner.  We also each give our tasting notes and compare that to the label's notes:

We've had some amazing wines, most of them coming from our local store.  And the further we get into the bottle, the funnier the tasting notes become (especially mine!)

David faithfully transcribes everything I say!  For example, the first words out of my mouth when smelling the 'Espirit de Puisseguin'?  'Bouquet of Yum'.  Oh, did I mention we rank each of the wines out of five stars?  We gave this one 4.5 stars.  So far we've tasted 111 wines.  Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) we didn't record when we actually started the journal.  So I have no idea how much wine that is per week/month/annum.  hahhaha.

A few examples of funny tasting notes….

Barbera D'Asti, 2010 (which we each gave five stars!!):
Debi: Beautiful raspberry colour.  Raspberry, plum and cherry in the nose…mmm…Dark, mysterious and smooth taste…mmm…mmm…mmm…with RASPBERRIES! [pours more]
David: Rich and robust --round, berry flavours, spice, and a pleasant earthiness.  Tannins add a dimension of complexity, balanced by a good weightiness and long finish.
Or how about the Trapiche Varietals Sauvignon Blanc, 2011 from Argentina:
Debi: Very pale yellow in colour, hints of citrus melon in the nose, very fresh and summery.  Fruit salad explosion in the mouth.
David: Well, isn't that a tough one to follow?  Light, golden, with a grassy, herbal aroma. Citrus zest with light floral notes, with hints of summer fruit, balanced with a brisk acidity to a pleasant finish.
Label: Brilliant, clear yellow colour with lemon green hues. Fresh aromas of grapefruit and subtle rue notes with a pleasant acidity.
Did I mention we never read the label until after we've written down our tasting notes?  It's a lot of fun seeing what they write.

One more for good measure…

2012 Fairtrade Carmenere from Chile:
Debi: Plum and oaky spice in the nose.  A velvety spice and vanilla notes on the palate…reminds me of of the opera Carmen. Dramatic and satisfying with a great soundtrack.
David: Well, how in hell can I follow that?  Nothing to add.
Label: This carminere is soft, yet rich, with a nose of blackcurrant and coffee.  Following to a palate of dark fruits, hints of chocolate and a toasty finish. 
 We now pause for a brief, festive interlude:

I love our wine tradition!  It's so much fun (when we can actually get the labels off the bottles! lol.)

And now I have a dress to wear as well….. yay for chocolate and wine!


  1. Love your dress, at first glance it looks like it's a little raspberry fitted jacket over the chocolate dress, and your shoes are perfect for the outfit. You have also given me hope that it is possible to resurrect a project after months in the "pile of despair" that is in the corner of my sewing room.

  2. Debbie, I love this dress! The color combination, the length (your knees look good!), and the details! Even though you used a vintage pattern this does have a modern feel to it. It is a very lovely make!

  3. Beautiful dress! I love the length too. What a great idea to have a wine journal!

  4. holy cow so much love FOR ALL OF THIS. the love keep piling on top of the love till it was love overload. dress! zipper! chocolate! wine! PERFECT HANDWRITING!

    i may have to go lie down.

  5. This is fanastic! I may very well steal your wine journal idea, being a fellow lover of tasting a wine or two.
    As for the dress - lovely, as always. Mayhap you should get your knees out more often!

  6. Chocolate and wine are two of my favorite things as well. :) Your dress looks great!

  7. "Reminds me of the opera Carmen"- AHAHAHAHAHAHA! You two are so much fun!

    I love this dress! It's so beautiful, and so unique! Absolutely lovely!

  8. It's beautiful, and perfect for an evening of chocolate and wine!! Love the design, and so glad you finally revisited this project :) Also, LOVE your wine journal - you two are hilarious! XOXO!

  9. That turned out absolutely beautifully. Love the wine journal too! Such a neat tradition.

  10. What a fun thing to do together - I've never seen anything like this! Such creative minds! Really nice colour combination on the dress too, hope you get to wear it whilst partaking of both chocolate and wine very soon!

  11. Love this dress ♥ The two colors are wonderful and the collar is so clever and cute!

  12. It is absolutely lovely. I love your wine diary tradition too!

  13. Gorgeous, look at those style lines! Somehow in the chocolate and wine colours (now I want chocolate and wine, so thanks) it looks very modern, I love it!

  14. That whole look is super cute! I love how you did your hair, and those colors are amazing on you!

  15. Your dress is darling! But now you've made me hungry. :-)

  16. I love you hair this way. The dress is awesome too. I'm not much of a wine drinker but your comments are hilarious!

  17. Lovely! The colours look great together! I didn't know about the chocolate cafe. I will need to look that up!

  18. You and David are so cute!! I love all the sweet traditions you have. Your dress, of course, is fabulous!

  19. I remember this from Sew Weekly--glad you finished! Love love love the fauxlero effect!

  20. Oh, I love your wine journal! and, mais oui, votre robe de chocolat et vin, aussi! (Pardon my French: just had a visit from my high school French teacher.) My own DH and I keep a tally of Worst Ice Cream Flavors, which relies heavily on stories about our next-door neighbor's beer brewing supply store customers. "Ass, feet, and Bandaids" would certainly be a terrible ice cream flavor. Neighbor assures us it was a terrible homebrew, as well.

  21. This was an adorable post! Love that dress too. I'm really liking the faux bolero look lately.

  22. You just look so beautiful in this dress!! :)

  23. Hi, Helen,
    Thanks for your great comments.

    It's The Chocolate Tree in Bruntsfield, Edinburgh.
    Their website is here:

    It gets very busy and they have very limited seating so reservations are suggested. It's a very nice local shop.

  24. Thanks for your comment, Rachel!

    I concur - perhaps Debi will see fit to show off her lovely knees more this spring.

    I'm glad you liked the wine journal idea - Debi and I really enjoy it. It's a fun way to develop your palate by focusing on what you smell and taste in the glass, comparing it with the tasting notes on the bottle or a good wine guide (we use Jancis Robinson's Oxford Guide to Wine, which I highly recommend).

  25. Thanks, Oona!
    The handwriting is usually kinda sloppy for me but it works for the journal, which is usually written à ce moment.

    It's all about fun and good wine. And chocolate. And being silly together whilst learning something new, which is always a worthy pursuit.
    Hope you 'n' Ruggy are good - let's catch up soon!

  26. Oh all your chocolate & wine photos really set the stage and make this whole dress. What memories! It's lovely to see how the dress turned out. Sometimes when I dream over vintage patterns I forget that it won't look like the model on me (I'm not tall and slender, I'm mid sized & curvy). Does that happen to you?


I read each and every comment--thank you so much!

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