S H I B U I – Vogue 8648

“When the student is ready, the master appears.”   Buddhist Proverb

I was ready to learn how to make a good dress, and boy did I learn. My dedicated efforts in dressmaking were often flawed by random mediocre details leaving me discouraged and insecure.

Enter the Online Couture Dress Class with Susan Khalje.

Online Sewing Class

I’m wondering if I even knew what  C O U T U R E meant.

Very nice, good fitting, custom-made clothes with special hand-sewn techniques – right? My naivety proved me nearly clueless.

While Susan suggests several dress patterns to use, the Craftsy course includes this free Vogue 8648 dress pattern which she illustrates in the class.

I decided to invest my time in a dress I could wear most anywhere, as well as making a dress I have never purchased – a classic and simple linen dress.

Did I say simple?

The dress has 21 pieces, plus 21 pieces of underlining, plus 21 pieces of lining, and 21 pieces for the muslin.

Nonetheless, the dress is one I wanted in my wardrobe.

Yes it’s me. No bows, no ruffles, no bright colors or prints.

Perhaps the loving attention I have given to the 84 pattern pieces is evident simply by the way I wear my newest dress, but I doubt the intense labor involved will ever be apparent, which brings me to the most recent addition to my vocabulary:

S H I B U I .

It’s a Japanese term for something that appears simple but is actually very complex in detail, and this simple looking dress fits the bill with:

a thread traced muslin,

84 pattern pieces basted by hand, by machine, with silk thread and/or cotton poly thread

over 55 catch-stitched seams, by hand of course

hand inserted zipper

hand inserted lining

and several other couture techniques such as running thread through beeswax and then setting it with a hot iron.

Maybe this is how most everyone sews, but the course was an eye-opener to me and my approach to dressmaking has forever changed. Every dress cannot be couture but every dress endeavor can be approached with a couture frame of mind. It’s hard going back to what was now that I know a better way.

Many thanks to Susan Khalje for sharing her masterful skills with grace and eloquence!

My class review can be read here, on the Pattern Review website.


Online Sewing Class

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98 Responses to S H I B U I – Vogue 8648

  1. Lori says:

    It is a gorgeous dress and you look fantastic. Congrats on mastering the 84 pieces of fabric, very impressive

  2. Dagmar O'Hanlon says:

    While your dress is a true colour departure from what you usually sew, it is no less beautiful and allows your own beauty to shine through. It is obvious that it fits you to perfection and is comfortable to wear. One question: after wearing it, do you find that the linen is less prone to wrinkling with the lining and underlining? What fabric did you select as a lining?

    • Hi Dagmar – Thank you so much for this nice comment! The silk organza underlining most definitely helps with wrinkle control. I used a polyester lining which I regret. The next time I sew linen I will use a natural fiber lining.

  3. Cheryl says:

    84 pieces??? My head is spinning! Well done – it looks fabulous. What tricks did you learn that you’ll be able to apply to your ‘regular’ sewing – or is this an entirely different kettle of fish? Kudos for tackling such a project!

    • Good to hear from you, Cheryl ! As I just told Lori, it’s a good thing I didn’t know I’d be cutting 84 piece of fabric or I never would have made the dress. I believe any of the sewing techniques can be applied to everyday sewing. What was most time consuming was basting the underlining to the fashion fabric and then catch-stitching the sewn seam allowance to the underlining. That is what I will not do unless I’m planning another “couture” garment :)

  4. What a really nice dress! I would love to eventually take one of her classes.

  5. reecie says:

    You always look so great in your dresses, pant and tops!!

  6. Oh my, you have gone completely to the dark side now, this is no longer a simple little year of sewing!! You go! Congratulations on a stunning success in your first couture project. It looks beautiful on you and I am really impressed! Well done!!

    • I live along the edge of the dark side, Robin :) :) I’m truly flattered receiving such a alovely and encouraging comment from someone with your skills and talent! Many thanks for writing.

  7. Lulu says:

    This is a beautiful garment. I am sold and have to take this class. Great job.

  8. Valerie says:

    Lovely dress. I’ve made this pattern, admittedly using less than couture methods and I combined some of the waistband pieces because there were just so many. It’s a shibui all right!

    • So nice to hear from you, Valerie! I also combined some of the waistband pieces for a smoother look. I’d like to make the dress again and though I’m pleased with the couture results, I doubt I will take the 84 piece plunge :)

  9. sewbusylizzy says:

    Great job! I’ve got this pattern but you have scared me a little and I might move it to my ‘when I’m feeling braver’ box!

  10. artattack024 says:

    Oh, honey! It is worth every piece and stitch. I must study this more closely when I have more time but had to dash a note off to you. Congratulations for a simply gorgeous dress fit for the likes of Audrey Hepburn, Princess Grace and…YOU!

    • Thanks, Dorcas for the lovely comment! I need to drop 20 before I’m included in the same sentence with Audrey Hepburn… speaking of which this pattern would make a terrific LBD :)

  11. Meg@mood says:

    Sarah, your dress is stunning! Well done you. I hope the dress I am making now, a la Susan K, turns out as great as yours.

    • Many thanks for the nice comment, Meg! I have no doubt that your dress will be exceptional and look forward to seeing it! By the way, my next “real sewing project” will use a cotton voile I recently ordered from Mood. (after I finish a couple of remakes) :)

  12. Carolyn says:

    You did a fantastic job and I agree with Robin because there is no turning back now…especially now that you know you can handle complex and time consuming construction details. The dress is beautiful and I love your smile while wearing this!!

    • Ah thank you Carolyn! I’m so flattered to receive such a comment from someone with your talent and expertise. I’m anxiously awaiting the completion of your ribbon dress :)

  13. JoanneM says:

    Stunning. You worked hard and it shows. Very lovely.

  14. RoseOK says:

    Congratulations for surviving and coming out on top. You look great in the dress. Thanks for the review of the class and trying the class first so we all know about it.

  15. Amy says:

    It looks gorgeous on you! So very flattering in its “simplicity”. And, you move quickly! I’ve watched all of the videos for the class and have all of the fabric and notions I need to start, but I know from my first muslin to my final dress, it’s going to be a very long time. You are one speedy sewer!

    • Many thanks for writing, Amy! I watched half of the videos to get a feel for the class, but I never imagined how long it would take me to complete the steps in between lesson! I’m not speedy, just possessed when a project takes hold. ;)

  16. Karen says:

    What a classic, lovely style on you! It looks as beautiful on the inside as the outside! You must not have taken time for meals, much less sleep, to complete this since your post about it last week!! So – now I am thinking I need to do this class…

    • You guessed it, Karen! I became a woman possessed and did not eat or sleep until I finished this dress. When I wrote the post last week I was ready to assemble the dress so I was past the beginning stage. At any rate I recommend the class to anyone who wants to learn more about dressmaking. Many thanks for writing!

  17. Jan says:

    Your dress is gorgeous! I have signed up for this class and have the pattern but haven’t had time to get started. You have inspired me to make time!

  18. Pauline Droy says:

    WOW simple but stunning and I think worth the effort because this dress will be timeless – will have to think about taking one of Susan’s classes too sounds like you would learn so much. Well done you.

  19. Oh my oh my oh my. It looks fabulous and I love that the simple isn’t really that simple. Though I guess when you take it all one step and a time then it is, at its heart, a simple dress. And you look lovely in ruffles and bright colours and plain ruffle-lessness. :o) Now go put your feet up and do a quick project! Ha

  20. Jeyco says:

    Yes, it’s shibui in some ways but I would simply say it’s classic and clean:) The “modesty” of the dress making your appeal stand out!

    • Hi Jeyco! I’m sure my dress is not shibui to you at all!! Your dresses are sooooo detailed and unbelievably tailored!
      Did I use this word correctly?

      • Jeyco says:

        Yes, you did. The expression of Shibui can be also used for taste (astringent/bitter), colors (deep/dark), voice (low-keyed), looks (sour/wry) and maybe more :)

  21. Coco says:

    Oh my. What a lovely dress. Beautiful fit and finish. I enjoy reading about your experiences in classes, this, the perfect skirt. When I was learning many of these techniques, classes were not really available, pre-computers (oh, I’m old!) and Vogue published the ultimate guide and learning tool. Don’t remember the exact title, but it was an excellent and large volume. We were student-poor, and I cherished my book when I was able to purchase it! What next? I’m ready for more!

    • Many thanks for writing, Coco! I have a gigantic red book by Vogue which I bought in 1980. I find online classes to be the way to go……. I suppose I need someone to talk me through the steps! What’s next? Something ridiculously easy :)

  22. Elaine says:

    You certainly know which colors work best for you whether they are brights or neutrals. I once helped to select fabric in an off-white for a dress to be made for an occasion. I was young and learned quickly that there are many subtle differences in off-whites and beiges. Congratulations on another success!

    • Many thanks for you nice comments, Elaine! I’ve always enjoyed wearing neutrals but you’re so right – there are just as many shades of off-white and beige as there are bright colors! Tricky for sure :)

  23. Kathie Bennett says:


  24. prttynpnk says:

    It lays so beautifully- wonderful job and the color is lovely with your hair.

  25. eumoronorio says:

    wow that’s amazing! And it is so Shibui! Vocab+1 Your dress looks wonderful on you! Congrats. Have you seen the couture series over on Burdastyle that Susan is mentoring Frabulous Couture through a Couture Wardrobe challenge? Very interesting to read and see all her pictures too! I think its been a great almost continuation of the course! Now if I just could get some sewing done! My son took off with one of my muslin pieces this week and hid it under the TV stand!

  26. Great result on your dress, lovely fit. Now you can re-make that pattern in a print for a totally different look. Perhaps you will find, as I have, that the couture methods are a great foundation for knowledge, however I use them sparingly when sewing for myself. I say “modern” methods, i.e. fusibles, machine stitching, have come a long way and you can get great results with them. And I am sure you are ready for a quick and fun project!

    • Hi Beth!
      Great minds think alike for I am planning to do exactly what you are suggesting; the same pattern in a print with a mix of “modern” and couture methods. The best of both worlds, I’m hoping.
      Many thanks for writing!

  27. Maggie Edger says:

    Years ago I had a Vogue pattern very much like the one you made with many, many pieces. It very quickly wound up in the goof section. It looks like you did a beautiful job on the dress. However, I like your other choices better. I, too, like color. Grandmother would have loved the BEIGE dress. A. Maggie

    • Hi Maggie,
      As much as I like color I need some neutrals in my wardrobe for balance. I’m getting ready to make the same pattern in a print (once my sewing machine is back and running!) Thanks for writing :)

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  29. Sharon Hughes says:

    Wow!!! I’m off to sign up for the class. Thanks for sharing as always. Looks fabulous on you.

  30. Wow! Nicely done. I’m taking that class, too…or rather, I’m watching the videos in awe, too intimidated to even begin. But I love your results.

    • Hi Julie! Before I started, I watched just enough to become excited but certainly would have been intimidated had I watched it all the way through. Making the muslin was actually fun and you’ll lose all intimidation once you get started. Good luck!

  31. Your dress turned out so lovely! Perfect fit! I’ve been eyeing that class for quite awhile now. I would love to learn how to sew like a pro. Well done!

  32. Cissie Wellons says:

    Your dress is absolutely lovely. As you know, I’m here in Baltimore with Susan and I will show her your beautiful dress and post tomorrow.

    • Thank you, Cissie! It was a worthwhile endeavor in so many respects, but I’m sure the online class can’t compare to the real thing! I’m hope you are having a great time and look forward to seeing your jacket :)

  33. Cissie Wellons says:

    I passed on to Susan earlier your kind comments about the course and she was very touched. The jacket is slow going — I call Susan’s techniques “Slow Sewing” but the end results are certainly worth all of the effort! I’m enjoying every step of this journey.

  34. Cissie Wellons says:

    Susan was most impressed with your lovely dress — and your lovely self! I’m giving her the site information as she wants to contact you herself!

  35. Hannah Anderson says:

    I just love all of your things! They are so inspiring! I have looked at this class before and now must take it. I do have a question about a previous style you made. It is the Cynthia Rowley top with the ruffles. Did you use a side zipper or is it full enough to pull on without one? I am dying to make one! Thank you for taking the time to share all of your work!

    • Thank you for such a nice comment, Hannah!
      I do not use a side zipper for the Cynthia Rowley top but I’ve thought about it. Right now I work from a muslin that is just full enough to pull over my head. If I ever decide to make it more fitted it will need a zipper. Also, the next time I make this top I plan to widen the taper of the ruffle. Good luck!

  36. Cissie Wellons says:

    Forgot to mention. Susan really wants you to post this on the Craftsy project board.

  37. Lisa P says:

    Hi I found your blog via the Craftsy site. I love your dress, it’s timeless, classic and fits you like a glove. I also made a Couture dress from the same class so I know how much work you have put into it. I have been wondering now we have our master patterns (altered muslin) How would you go about making another dress but less Couture ? would you trim down the seam allowances to 1.5cm or would you go through the whole underlining saga again?

    • Thank you so much for writing, Lisa! I’ve been thinking about the same thing as you – less couture on the next go around. I believe I will omit the underlining since it was the most time consuming. I will also use an invisible zipper and machine (invisible) hem. I really love having a thread traced muslin, however and will transfer the markings just as Susan suggested. I found that process sooooo helpful!

      • Cissie Wellons says:

        I find a lot of the couture techniques easy to incorporate into my “down and dirty” sewing — fell stitching, prick stitching, etc. And I am totally hooked on using the stitching line instead of a seam allowance — so much more accurate. I rarely use invisible zips anymore as I enjoy putting them in by hand.

  38. PendleStitches says:

    Jaw droppingly beautiful. Worth every stitch and every piece of fabric. I’m inspired!

  39. Gail says:

    Just stumbled upon your blog and have enjoyed your style. I bought this Crafty course – but was uncertain about the pattern provided. You’ve changed my mind. I think I might start right now.

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  41. Heather says:

    Stunning, STUNNING dress! Oh how I would love to take this class and learn, but I don’t see it working with my 30 minute bits of sewing time. I see your girls are older. Mine are 2 and 8, so I’m looking at at least a decade until I have time for this, right? Or perhaps I could take a week vacation from work…. hmmm.

    Congratulations on a job well done!

    • Thank you for writing, Heather! I love your blog and just left a comment.
      I basically sewed for my girls when they were young and some home dec. On occasion I would try to make a thing or two for myself but I never devoted myself to it.
      One day before you know it, you’ll have plenty of time to sew for yourself – a mixed blessing.

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  43. That is a truly beautiful dress. Less is most definitely more. Very tempted by this course!

    • Thank you so much! I’m wearing this dress everywhere….. The course was extremely helpful to me – my dressmaking skills were pretty mediocre and Susan is a master instructor. ……. your trip to SF looked like great fun!

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  45. Sheree says:

    I just wanted to say that it was due to you that I bought the couture dress course . Still working my way through it, but I have to say I am so impressed with the way Susan teaches. Love to see her do another course. Thanks so much.

    • Sheree,
      Don’t know how I missed your comment…… so sorry! Good news! Susan Khalje will be releasing a French Jacket series soon. Many thanks for your comment and I hope your dress turned out just the way you hoped it would :)

  46. Nancy Schaub says:

    Absolutely exquisite and even more beautiful for its simplicity. You look stunning in it. This took me back to a Chanel-type jacket-dress I made way back when I was thinner, in the 70s. I did bound buttonholes and a hand-picked zipper and was so proud of how it turned out. It was of those things that you wanted to tell everyone but knew their eyes would glaze over, if they did not sew. That same year I made a regular A-line skimmer in the most gorgeous piece of linen I have ever owned, and hope to replace. It was a watercolor type floral on off-white (not cream) in the most beautiful shades of powder blue and cocoa. I keep looking but can’t find anything like it.

  47. Carol says:

    I too have looked at this class on Craftsy but I’m not quite sure I’m ready for that class. Do you use a dress form when you sew? I find that since I have no sewing buddies, it’s difficult to fit myself. I’m thinking a dressform might help if I get the right one. I aspire to be as eligant as you if I ever grow up.

    • Ahh….. what a sweet comment, Carol! I do have a dress form but it is B.C. (before children who are now 28 and 24) and it’s in desperate need of some padding. You will absolutely need someone to fit you if you don’t have a dress form. My husband was a great help :)

  48. Anne George says:

    oh, such a beautiful dress! It fits so nicely on you.

  49. symondezyn says:

    So, so beautiful!! I wouldn’t have guessed it was linen; it hangs so lovely and is so smooth I thought it was silk – all hail the silk underlining!! :) You’ve done an amazing job with the fitting as well – it’s a perfect fit on you :)

    I have this class and have been planning on making the same version of the dress in black silk dupioni. If I hadn’t already done the bombshell class (the dress construction being similar, it sounds like) the thought of 84 pieces would scare me away… now I know there’s something so satisfying about constructing a dress like this… SHIBUI is a perfect word, and one I embrace wholeheartedly!! ^__^

  50. Mary says:

    What is underlining? What fibers are typically involved? Also, what is it called if you ask for it in a shop? Does it have different names regionally?
    I ask that last question because apparently quilt batting has a thousand different names…. Perhaps underlining is another one of those things.
    I’ve got one thai silk blouse that is underlined. The underlining is slightly fuzzy, but there isn’t a lining.. all very confusing.

    Mary in Thailand

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