Monday 25 September 2017

autumn sewing experiment: Papercut Patterns Kobe dress

Dear readers: negative review incoming. 

I admit I approached making the Kobe dress from a place of scepticism. The sample photo (beautiful romantic layering) and the line drawing (sack thing with a back detail that in no way excused the sack part) didn't seem to have much to do with each other at all. Having bought the pattern basically immediately based off the picture (shame on me, etc), I decided to see if some approximation of that photo could be achieved by using a sheer lace fabric. I'd never worked with lace before, so it seemed like a good opportunity to broaden my skill set a bit. I completely recognise that what you're about to see is not my best work, and I wouldn't normally post a hastily-sewn toile, but I do think this ought to be talked about. 

If I'd liked this enough to make a proper version, I would have cut the hem on the selvedge and made a slip to go underneath. For the toile I just left the edges unfinished and put it on over a cami and skirt. I made size L in the hips and M everywhere else, because I usually find that Papercut comes up large on me (which isn't a problem I've read about anyone else having, but I always have to take things in if I cut them according to the size chart). 

The sleeves and hem on my version are shorter than the pattern dictates. The hem is meant to hit at mid-calf so I made the pattern about eight inches shorter (a shapeless mid-calf-length dress? Get out of my office) and the sleeves were a little way above the elbow, which looked horrendous on me so I hacked about three inches off there. I also found that the neckline was wide enough to pull over my head, so I sewed the pleats together at the back rather than have to faff with a button.

So far, so uninspiring. What about the back? This is what we're going for:

And this is what we got:

(That's the zip of my skirt, not a slug trail.)

You can see here that in fact, when made in a sheer fabric, the back does resemble the beauty of the photo somewhat. It's not exactly the same, but the layers of intricate loveliness do begin to show through if you make the dress in a sheer. But here's the thing: that layered back detail is the selling point of the pattern. They KNOW that back detail is the selling point of the pattern. That's why it's the envelope picture. It is a goddamn beautiful photo that is going to make people want that dress. So why not tell people that the dress is intended to be made up in a sheer fabric? Is it cynical to say "because then they'd have to include pattern pieces for a lining or slip or something"? I don't know. I just feel like this dress is pointless without those sheer layers, and the fact that the sample garment shows the dress worn on top of another fucking dress without any real indication that that's what's happening smells a tiny bit like false advertising to me. Not to the extent that I'm going to demand my money back, but definitely enough for a side-eye and a blog post. 

I also really object to the pattern picture including a belt (and thus waist cinching) when the pattern itself includes no such thing. It's not like that would even be hard to include. I made belt loops out of two strips of selvedge and a belt out of another strip. It's some rectangles. It's easy. 

I'd also like to show you something else:

I put the dress on Patrick for our collective amusement and took a photo of the back on my phone so I could get a better look at it. This is how it naturally falls with no waist belt and no fabric underneath to disguise anything, and I don't think it looks very good. If you look back at the sample photo, the waist belt is pulling the pleats inwards, and that's part of what creates the shape. On my version, the waist belt is pulling the pleats outwards, and that's contributing to a different, but still (I think) pleasing shape. With nothing there, it just... falls straight down and hangs there, and it doesn't look anywhere near as nice as either of the belted versions. Which, again, says to me that this dress needs a goddamn belt and that should have been included, and also that it requires an incredibly specific set of circumstances to look the way it looks in the sample photo. And many of these circumstances aren't stated by the pattern at all. I'm not impressed.

Will I wear this dress? No. That back detail really is lovely in a sheer fabric, and I think mine came out really nicely (scratty sewing aside), but I don't like the rest of the dress at all. It doesn't suit me and while the waist tie helps, it's not a miracle worker. Maybe one day I'll have a go at transferring the back detail onto a better dress, but it's not a priority. Also the dress looks about eight hundred times better on Patrick, who belts it at the hips and looks like an exceptionally beardy flapper girl in it. So now it's his dress, and I'll borrow his hat and we'll do the Charleston in the kitchen. 

I feel I should say that I really like Papercut. I've made three of their other patterns and was impressed with all of them. I think their drafting is good and they've more than once produced that thing I was looking for and couldn't find anywhere else. But I don't like this. It's not a good dress for me and I am seriously side-eyeing that sample photo. I think to get from this pattern to that sample photo you have to be more talented than a medium-rated home sewing pattern should require. I've searched the Instagram hashtags and there are people who are happy with their dresses, but nobody has produced anything even remotely like the picture. This pattern should have either been way more thoughtful and complicated, or used a more representative photo. 

Feel the side-eye of Super Puffy Cold-Ridden Jen. Feel it. 


  1. Hi :)
    I didn't consider getting this pattern, but I spent a good amount of time trying to understand if that slip/underdress was included or what. I completely support your side eye, thanks for this review.
    But honestly I like the result you got... I think you could wear it, if any appropriate occasion rises.
    At least you learned a few things, right?

    1. Oh, it was definitely a learning experience and I don't regret having made it! It puts the fancy lace dress of my dreams a little closer within reach at least...

      I don't think it looks terrible on me or anything, and I do like the back, but it really does look so much better on my boyfriend it's not even funny. I don't think there's any coming back from that!

  2. Thanks - you did a great job of covering all my doubts and suspicions, starting with the cavernous distance between the photo and the line drawing! And it's still compelling! Wanted to let you know that I was just at the papercut site and had never opened the thumbnail for the Mito camisole dress - lo & behold - there she is again in the blue heels and white dress. So they do have the pattern for the lovely underdress! Weird that the Kobe pattern doesn't mention that. Thanks again.