Take heart! It’s possible!

by Erin on January 24, 2007

Vogue 2756

Sometimes I look at a pattern like this one (it's a vintage Vogue Couturier from Jean Muir, # 2756.) and quail. Do I really have the chops for all those curved seams? Do I really want to sew on all those tiny buttons? Wouldn't my time be better spent making yet another circle skirt (number eleventy-billion in a series)? What if I mess up the fabric?

Well, sometimes all you need is the news that someone else has freed the pattern from its paper-envelope prison and made it into a real dress. In fact, Carmen did that for this pattern, and even better, sent me a picture! Yep, it looks complicated, but it's doable:

Vogue 2756

The goat's name, by the way, is Billie Holiday. Just thought you'd like to know. (Look at the shoes too, they're gorgeous!)

I'm glad to get this reminder, because even if I'm not going to sew this particular dress, there are plenty of other complicated ones in my stash begging to be set free. I'm going to get some cheap cotton and really WORK on one of them. Really do a muslin, and take my time with fitting. And if I ruin some cheap fabric, it still won't be a waste of time, as I'll be learning.

Monday night I went roller-skating (don't worry, this isn't as alarming of a segue as you think). I started working on backwards crossovers, and of course went immediately ass-over-teakettle to the floor. One of the instructors skated over to make sure I was all right, and I said "don't worry — if you don't fall down every once in a while, you aren't learning anything, right?" I think I need to extend that philosophy to sewing. If you don't ruin four yards of cheap cotton every once in a while, you aren't learning anything!

{ 50 comments… read them below or add one }

Heather Outside Boston January 24, 2007 at 8:37 am

It looks eve better on Carmen than it does on the envelope. :-) And I love that she’s wearing it next to her (beautiful) goat.

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Anonymous January 24, 2007 at 8:48 am

At what point has one ruined enough cheap cotton fabric that one is obviously not learning? Not that I have any personal interest in the answer to that question, of course. . . .

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Kirsten January 24, 2007 at 8:49 am

Just a note for future reference…. I completely wish you would post pictures of the things you sew. The pictures you already post are inspiring me to learn to sew, and a couple of things actually sewn up would push me over the edge, I think.

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twollin January 24, 2007 at 8:49 am

My husband asked me once what was the one thing that would help me sew more of my stash up and I told him to get me muslin. He ran out to JoAnn’s and got me …a bolt (love guys – they don’t see any necessity to cheap things out…he did not know how many yards to get, so he got the whole thing).

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Anonymous January 24, 2007 at 8:52 am

Way to go, Carmen! Lovely dress and the goat is cute too.

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Miz Shoes January 24, 2007 at 9:16 am

I want twollin’s husband.Then, I want a new dress-maker’s mannequin.Then, I want the pattern from yesterday.And then, I want to lock myself in my sewing room and not come out for a couple of months. Sigh. I come here every day, Erin, to read your beautiful prose and to pine over the vintage patterns, and loll around in the virtual companionship of other craftspersons.

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Erin January 24, 2007 at 9:19 am

Pictures coming soon, I promise!And I guess that you have ruined enough fabric when you don’t feeling like trying again. When I don’t feel like skating through another song I know it’s time to go home!

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knitgirl January 24, 2007 at 9:26 am

I was NOT loving the skirt in that stiff fabric, but Carmen’s version is beautiful! Also, LOVE the goat!

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lucitebox January 24, 2007 at 9:32 am

That is an exquisite dress–way to go, Carmen!! I have a girl crush on you, your fabulous dress, your adorable shoes and your noble goat. Erin–keep on skatin’ and keep on sewin’! We’re all looking forward to seeing more examples of the latter (and the former, too, if you want to post some video streaming!)Holly

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India January 24, 2007 at 9:34 am

I want twollin’s husband. And miz shoes’s sewing room.And a dressmaker’s dummy.And the goat.

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S. January 24, 2007 at 9:38 am

Wow, it didn’t look appealing to me in the vintage photo but,Carmen’s is truly lovely!

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Anonymous January 24, 2007 at 10:03 am

I once took a very promising boyfriend who was quite a citified charmer type to my home town, where we ended up tromping through some fields with my brothers. I noted he was quite adept at dodging cow patties to protect his expensive polished shoes. Then we stopped at a shack in the woods where my brothers introduced us to an old hermit type who graciously offered us bottles of Grapette. While sitting there chatting, a goat walked in and this young man continued to sip his soda, smoke his cigarette, and pet the goat for a good 40 minutes. You would have thought he had grown up out there! My brothers decided he was okay after that, but we didn’t marry. We still meet every once in awhile, though, and he always mentions that goat with a smile.

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Kate in England January 24, 2007 at 10:10 am

I want that pattern! That’s gorgeous – I’ve been looking at 30s-type patterns for something similar but hadn’t thought of 70s patterns. Nice goat, although I prefer llamas myself.And I second Kirsten – when are we going to see pictures of those eleventy billion skirts?

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Julie The Vintage Goddess January 24, 2007 at 10:20 am

I REALLY like Jean Muir’s designs that were done as Vogue patterns. I haveone that is a bit like this dress right now, big sleeves, huge gored skirt with a tucked and buttoned bodice. I’ll have to post a picture on my blog.The one Carmen made has such a 30′s vibe…..

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Anonymous January 24, 2007 at 11:00 am

The young lady in the photo is very beautiful and has a lovely figure, and I like her goat, too. But I would recommend not making this dress. Perhaps I’ve been contaminated by reading too much “Go Fug Yourself,” but it definitely is one of those dresses that would provoke the fuggers to start riffing on how you seem to think you’re auditioning for the part of Maria fresh from the convent in The Sound of Music. The high neck and long sleeves are aggressively chaste and look bizarrely asexual in today’s world. If you have a nice figure and can carry off this kind of fitted style, why not go with something that doesn’t suggest you’re hiding a chastity belt underneath? This dress is not retro in a fun way; it is frumpy and prim.

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Anna January 24, 2007 at 11:08 am

I sooo don’t agree with last comment! This dress is not asexual in any way. It may not be showing cleavage, but it is certainly showing all of Carmen’s curves to their best advantage. I don’t believe we have to parade around half naked to be sexy or appealing.Erin, can’t wait to see some of your creations!

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Nadine January 24, 2007 at 11:33 am

I love the way Carmen looks better in it than the model does! And not at all frumpy; rather, “safe for work”. I really wish the photo had better lighting, though. I mean, if it looks THIS good in all that harsh light and shadow, how much better would it be in some flattering uniform shade . . .

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Pamela January 24, 2007 at 11:52 am

I have several Jean Muir dresses which I inherited from my British MIL. They are anything but frumpy, since most are fairly fitted to the figure. I always felt I had to be in good shape to wear them. I think many people now confuse celebrity style with what looks good in real life. AND Carmen looks lovely in real life! Perhaps she is a doctor or lawyer or landowner and does not need to flash her trash. Since when did having one’s chest or bra straps or midsection exposed become stylish? It used to be that fashion magazines were about clothes for work or lunches or parties or play…not just parties. That said I think fashion is heading to a more covered up and looser state. I know that many of the original Jean Muir dresses are made in wool crepe, rayon matte jersey or wool jersey. Could the lovely Carmen please tell us what fabric she made this dress in? Did she do all the topstitching? The Jean Muir topstitching is gorgeous. Congratulations on a beautiful creation, Carmen.

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lorraine January 24, 2007 at 11:54 am

When I saw the pattern, I thought, “No. We simply cannot go there.” Then I saw Carmen and changed my mind! She looks fabulous. And sexy. Let the fug girls say what they like. What makes this sexy is its audacity and trends-be-damned attitude. Go, Carmen!I’d love to see more real dresses made by and for real women.

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the_lazymilliner January 24, 2007 at 12:49 pm

I rather think Carmen looks like a 1940s lindy-hopper. She could go swing-dancing in that dress on the East Coast and fit right in! With that full skirt, she’d look HOT and most definitely not asexual.

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Lee Anne January 24, 2007 at 1:25 pm

I love this dress. I’m seeing it made up in a softly draping wool or rayon challis, perhaps in a subtle paisley or floral pattern. I would so wear that dress to work, or out to dinner. Maybe go with a midcalf length to wear with boots.

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twollin January 24, 2007 at 1:46 pm

Thanks to all who appreciate my husband – but sorry, he’s definitely already spoken for. Can’t agree with the remarks on the “asexual” nature of the dress — except for the fact that this design doesn’t show off a whole lot of skin (which, as a fashion design element has been way “overexposed” as far as I’m concerned), it shows all the curves the wearer has, so it is a very sexy dress, esp. in something drapey – like wool challis. I would, however, do some work on the sleeve. It’s too “little girl” to me, but then, I’m 54 years old and I was wearing those types of sleeves (ahem) 30 years ago. Something a little straighter, but with a little gathering at the top would be very 1940s and attractive on a lot of us.As for the goat, we used to raise our dairy goats without horns, but each to his or her own tastes. I suppose even a goat with horns is better than no goat at all (and will perhaps inspire some of us to unearth our “Firesign Theatre” albums from the early 70s, with that bit about “May I take your hat and goat”?

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Anonymous January 24, 2007 at 2:02 pm

Ah, the joys of having your own bolt of muslin.I recently took a “30% off on one cut of fabric” coupon from the Hancock’s Fabric mailed flyer (known in our house as “sewing porn”), took it to the store, verified with the manager that the uncut 50-yard bolt of 36-inch wide natural muslin counted as one cut of fabric, had the clerk at the cutting table write me a cut fabric ticket for 50 yards, took the bolt, the ticket and the coupon to the checkout and walked away with 50 yards of muslin for $35.The latest Hancock’s mailer has a 40% off coupon. A bolt of muslin would be $30.Why 36-inch wide? Regular price is $0.99 a yard. 45-inch wide is reuglarly $1.99 a yard. I computed the price per square inch, and decided the 36-inch wide is the better deal.This is the second 50-yard bolt I’ve purchased. I’ve used muslin for all kinds of projects, especially Ren Faire costume chemises and shirts. If you are exceedingly frugal, you can recycle your muslin test garments and garment scraps into quilts (or give them to a quilting friend):How to Make a String QuiltCMC

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Summerset January 24, 2007 at 2:38 pm

Absolutely!

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Anonymous January 24, 2007 at 2:50 pm

“Aggressively chaste” and “bizarrely asexual”? Aside from that being wrong, that comment weirds me out because of the implied statement that women are somehow required to dress in a sexually provocative manner. Ick. Yeah. I think you read way too much Go Fug Yourself.

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Vicki Jane January 24, 2007 at 3:23 pm

I also love the bolts of cheap calico. I make costumes for a living so am lucky to be able to buy fabric wholesale from warehouses. Yesterday I drafted out a corset from one that belonged to Marie Antonette just to actually see what size she was. (Impossibly tiny across her back and with Pamela Anderson cleavage. Im a double DD cup and it was a tight fit!!)The Dress is georgeous and beautifully made. Not my style to wear but that is what makes fashion so interesting.Do love the shoes.Vicki

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Anonymous January 24, 2007 at 3:38 pm

That’s brilliant about the coupons for Hancock’s muslin; I’ll have to watch for some in my area.In my budding efforts to improve my sewing skills, I’ve found making cheap mock-ups to be enormously educational. It’s such a relief to get all the dumb mistakes out of the way during the “dress rehearsal.”

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Nicolars January 24, 2007 at 3:45 pm

I love this dress! I wish had the sewing skills to make it, but I can barely sew a napkin right now.

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Moonwishes January 24, 2007 at 4:22 pm

I have found that buying cheap chunks of fabric at yard sales can be great to use as ‘muslin’. A couple of summers ago I came upon 2 pieces 10 yards each for $1 a piece! I made up a top with one working and sewing the best I could and then after the top was finished made myself a skirt which I interlined (never had done that before). As both items turned out, they became my Sunday outfit for the rest of the summer. I also converted a sweatshirt into a matching jacket using leftover pieces and machine embroidery with threads and designs to match. Perfect for my lifestyle. Since it wasn’t in muslin, it was wearable. This year I get to start on the next 10 yard chunk of fabric.I love the inspiration I get here! Now to finish moving and get my sewing room unpacked. I’ve been without my sewing machine for close to a month now. I’m definitely into withdrawal.

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Anonymous January 24, 2007 at 5:28 pm

Oh dear. This is the person influenced by the fug girls. Apparently I am taken as someone who advocates dressing like a prostitute — I don’t! I think dressing modestly is almost always preferable to dressing flashily. And obviously the dress does show off Carmen’s lovely curves. Yet — doesn’t anyone else notice that, in the longer version, it looks like something from Little House on the Prairie? Some styles just don’t work for working women because they look too much like costumes or seem to be out of context for the work. This is certainly true for me. Some flattering styles are just not options for me, e.g., wearing my hair piled on top of my head is flattering to my face, and another good style for my broad face and big jaw is wearing my hair in a crown of braids (the height and width helps balance my face). But neither style really works because in today’s context, the first style connotes “frumpy old maid” (especially since I wear glasses) and the second style connotes “would-be dairy maid.” I cannot afford to convey EITHER message because I’m a litigator. I can really only wear my hair in an above-shoulder-length bob because it reads “professional” in the context in which I live and work and that’s the message I have to convey. The bob and its variants are not my favorite styles and certainly not the most flattering, and boy do I hate blow drying my hair every morning, but these contemporary styles convey the message I need to much more effectively than something more flattering but more old fashioned. (I also wear a lot of dark suits and closed-toe pumps, too, because I don’t get any leeway in what I can wear to court.)So, what message does Carmen “need” to convey? None, absolutely none; this beautiful, young, shapely, talented, nice, thoughtful and helpful seamstress can dress herself like an extra from The Sound of Music if she wants to and if her profession permits it. But most of us just are not as free as Carmen is. We can’t get away with wearing garments that look like they came from the costume department for a play set in the 19th century. Or at least, not those of us who, like me have pretty conventional jobs.But by all means, please don’t think I am trying to “command” anyone to dress provocatively.

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Anonymous January 24, 2007 at 7:07 pm

I’m hoping that anon will step outside the world of litigation and try wearing something else besides the conservative suits required for her profession. Let your hair down, girl! Have some fun! You’re not an attorney every second of the day. Life is too short not to wear dresses that convey all aspects of who you are.

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marina January 24, 2007 at 11:38 pm

Hi. Are you interesting in a link exchange with my blog ?Marina

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Anonymous January 25, 2007 at 2:25 am

Carmen, you look wonderful, and I hope you have a job that permits you to wear this dress often! And I totally understand the comments made by anon litigator, it must be frustrating always having to dress a certain way, especially as a dress-interested woman!

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MinaW January 25, 2007 at 3:42 am

Yes, from another point of view on that, I had an outdoors jeans job for over seven years. It was frustrating to always dress like that. I used to love to see women coming by who were taking full advantage of the new freedom in style choices, wearing dresses with hemlines everywhere from mini to floor-length. (This is a California small town is there that much variability elsewhere?)Mina

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floretbroccoli January 25, 2007 at 7:06 am

MY SISTER MADE THIS DRESS WHEN THE PATTERN WAS NEW!!!She made it in a gorgeous silk in shades of green and it looked very beautiful. Of course daughter laughs at her when she sees the picture, but what does she know!

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Anonymous January 25, 2007 at 7:07 am

I think the modern world is frustrating in that sense. If I wear anything dressier than dress pants and a blouse to my office job in a “casual” town, people think I’m interviewing or going to a funeral! What ever happened to day dresses? Seems we’re all in jeans or cocktail dresses and there’s no middle ground.

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Miz Shoes January 25, 2007 at 7:50 am

TWOLLIN: I have two things to say to you…Don’t crush that dwarf, hand me the pliers.Only half a key, I had to split it with the sound man.

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Kate January 25, 2007 at 8:15 am

Erin, A wonderful fiber artist teacher once told me, “There are no mistakes. Only design opportunities.” GO for it! Kate Q:-)

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florettebroccoli's mom January 25, 2007 at 8:24 am

yes, my daughter did make the dress. it was magnificent. i still have the pattern.

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Kate January 25, 2007 at 8:31 am

One more thing … I think all of us here reading this wonderful dress blog long for some beauty that is so lacking on the streets these days. I say, be a beacon of light in the sea of bluejeans. Don’t be afraid to stand out beautifully. I live in a very conservative Swiss German town these days and sometimes get mean stares for some of my hats but, you know, it’s their problem. I wore school uniforms for 12 years and just can’t be uniform any more. But oh! (sigh) do I miss Hancock’s! Denim is 20 CHF a meter here. Kate Q:-)

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Carmen January 25, 2007 at 9:46 am

Thanks to you all for the compliments.To answer some questions : The dress is silk crepe,I will wear it to work. I sent the picture because I was successful in making this one, but I have a box full of unfinished stuff (leather dress anyone?) like anyone who sews. I got the shoes in London. Getting fugged would be an honour, those girls are funny and most of the time spot on! The pattern was sent by my brother, what a gift! And Billie was bought for mowing the lawn, so, I can wear the dress with a nice drink on the terrasse entertain friends and let her do the work!Thanks again, thanks Erin for your wonderful blog.Carmen

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Carmen January 25, 2007 at 9:46 am

Thanks to you all for the compliments.To answer some questions : The dress is silk crepe,I will wear it to work. I sent the picture because I was successful in making this one, but I have a box full of unfinished stuff (leather dress anyone?) like anyone who sews. I got the shoes in London. Getting fugged would be an honour, those girls are funny and most of the time spot on! The pattern was sent by my brother, what a gift! And Billie was bought for mowing the lawn, so, I can wear the dress with a nice drink on the terrasse entertain friends and let her do the work!Thanks again, thanks Erin for your wonderful blog.Carmen

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sewinggirlfromtheothersideoftheowrld January 25, 2007 at 11:21 am

Dear Erin & Carmen. When I saw this pattern my first thought was ‘maternity!’ but in the silk crepe on Carmen it looks smashing. On anyone without a fine frame/wasp waist it just wouldn’t be stylish (sigh)Dear Madame Litigator. Please give yourself permision to grow your hair and wear it in a coronet around your head. You only live once.Dear Kate of the hats in the Swiss town. You go girl. I sometimes wear little power suits to the business end of town to have lunch with my daughter and enjoy it all the more because in my profession I wear scrubs all day.It’s refreshing to step outside the boundaries of what’s expected of you.That’s what this dress is.

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Anonymous January 25, 2007 at 1:40 pm

I hope Madame Litigator can take heart and imagine how to dress in a way that is flattering, expressive, but also acceptable in her conservative workplace. I used to work in a law-related field, and I still recall a meeting I had a vendor who provided research services to the court. She was 8 months pregnant, and wearing the most beautiful skirt suit I ever saw–she’d had it made specially, she confessed, because at that time, maternity suits were difficult to find. It was simple but very flattering, with an inverted pleat in the jacket to accomodate the bun in the oven. It was a conservative camel color–but oh, the fabric! A glorious floral brocade, monochromatic, but magnificently textural. That lady knew her audience and knew how she could tweak the fashion rules to dress in a way that pleased her.

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Robinson January 26, 2007 at 5:51 am

Carmen and her dress are gorgeous and I’m so jealous of the goat! I have 2 acres fenced and waiting for a herd myself.As far as the Go Fug Yourself women… I wish they would drop off the face of the internet. Every time I go look, there is some racial slurring going on. I mean, what was the deal with the image of African-American Naomi Campbell eating ribs? They aren’t funny.

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Anonymous January 26, 2007 at 7:46 am

That is one ugly pattern! The eral-life dress is actually an improvement over the dresses on the pattern cover though. I guess it’d be suitable to wear for farm chores. : )

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Anonymous January 26, 2007 at 7:53 am

I’m amazed at the real-life dress she made. It’s great, but the pattern envelope looks hideous. She has way more vision than I do.

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Anonymous January 26, 2007 at 8:01 am

Wow, that dress is amazing! I’m echoing everyone who commented on how much prettier it is in person than on the envelope. Yow!–Lydia

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Gardenia Grrl January 31, 2007 at 7:19 pm

Carmen, the dress is amazingly gorgeous! Jean Muir styles are sexy and comfortable, in my ever so humble opinion. I always got scads of compliments when I wore the one Vogue Muir I had made. Alas, it has made its way to the Goodwill store. You look like a smart 1940s woman from a classy movie.

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Gardenia Grrl January 31, 2007 at 7:19 pm

Carmen, the dress is amazingly gorgeous! Jean Muir styles are sexy and comfortable, in my ever so humble opinion. I always got scads of compliments when I wore the one Vogue Muir I had made. Alas, it has made its way to the Goodwill store. You look like a smart 1940s woman from a classy movie.

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