THE SEWING DIVAS sewing, design, fashion

June 13, 2009

Fashion Watch: Princess Sheath Dress

Filed under: Designer Inspirations,Georgene,Musings — georgene @ 1:30 pm

letizia sarkozy front view

I was interested to see the photo story on Princess Letizia, the wife of Spanish Prince Felipe, on the Huffington Post’s Style page.

back view
The photo story included one of my recent favorites: Letizia photographed this past April in Madrid with Carla Bruni-Sarkozy. The 2 women revealed a trend of note, the return of the knee length sheath dress.

Though both are married to notable statesmen, they are women of power in their own right.

Letizia Ortiz Rocasolano earned a degree in information sciences and a master’s in audiovisual journalism. She worked for Bloomberg Financial TV, CNN Plus, then as newscaster and correspondent with Television Espanola (TVE) where she covered the 2000 presidential election in the U.S., 9/11, and the war in Iraq, broadcasting stories directly from Iraq. She met the prince in 2002, and they eventually married.

Carla Bruni’s story of her career in modeling, as well as her debut as a popular singer in France has been covered quite a bit since she married Nicolas Sarkozy.

Both women are noted style icons, so it was interesting to see them show up at an event looking like they had phoned each other in the morning to color coordinate their outfits.

If you are wondering how you might look in a sheath with a less than stick-thin model’s figure, have a look at Madeline Albright.
She is often seen in a sheath, with a jacket and brooch as her signature look. Her dress appears to be less fitted, but still trim looking, particularly with a matching jacket, rather than contrast fabric. I love this photo by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders at the New York Times:
I had to laugh when I found this photo of Albright seated, showing off her great legs. Do consider the camera angles when allowing the photographer to take that shot, ladies….

Let us know if you have a tried and true sheath dress pattern. Princess lines do help in fitting, but appropriate darts or novelty seaming work also. I have a vintage 1950’s pattern I am working on, and will post my progress on that one soon.


  1. I’ve made the Burda Sleeveless Princess Sheath Dress. I love it. It’s my go-to LBD.

    Comment by Gorgeous Things — June 13, 2009 @ 1:41 pm

    • Ohhh, that’s the sheath pattern of my dreams. Ordering now!

      Comment by Mary Beth — June 13, 2009 @ 3:45 pm

  2. I’m working now on a princess-lined fitted sheath using PMB. I’m working on refining the fit for my shape (hips 2 sizes larger than bust) and I’m pretty happy with it. I’ll use it as a base for other styles and will post a review on PR when done.

    Comment by Kay Y — June 13, 2009 @ 3:36 pm

  3. Not yet but the sheath and matching jacket are on the list to sew. I have the same figure issue as you do Kay, so I look forward to your review.

    Comment by lorrwill — June 13, 2009 @ 6:36 pm

  4. I am a plus size woman who sews loads of sheath dresses using my TNT pattern which is an oop butterick pattern. I love the slimming effect of sheath dresses and how they appear to give me a waistline. I love this pattern so much that not only have I made loads of dresses but I’ve also manipulated it to make loads of other dresses!

    I can’t wait to see your version!

    Comment by Carolyn — June 13, 2009 @ 6:49 pm

  5. The Princess and the First Lady could be twins from the back. Both are beautiful.

    I think shift dresses are great but haven’t found my ‘go to’ for woven fabrics yet. I have a Simplicity one for knits I like a lot for dress and for daywear. Sorry, I am not sure what the number is.

    Comment by vernonfashionstudio — June 13, 2009 @ 6:59 pm

  6. My sheath dress project is Vogue 8507, a princess seam sheath with raglan short sleeves. Don’t know at present how that’s going to work as it hasn’t been cut yet. I find it interesting both women chose sleeved dresses, how long did it take to locate them? Perhaps they were designed by Helen Mirren who’s been an outspoken advocate for dresses with sleeves.

    Comment by Jane — June 13, 2009 @ 9:21 pm

  7. I am so glad you threw Madeline Albright in there. I was seriously depressed when it was just the two shapely ladies.

    Comment by Judith in Umbria — June 14, 2009 @ 4:37 am

  8. Love the shoes with bright red soles! But omg those two women must seriously starve themselves.

    Comment by Vibeke — June 14, 2009 @ 5:11 am

  9. I mean, they must be starving themselves – not that they should do so.

    Comment by Vibeke — June 14, 2009 @ 5:12 am

  10. OK…’drag lines’ specialists out there; anyone care to analyze the rear view shot? Because La Bruni-Sarcozy’s dress looks as if it has some issues to me. Am I mis-interpreting what I’m seeing?

    Comment by Toby Wollin — June 14, 2009 @ 10:58 am

  11. I agree, that blue dress could have been ‘flat lined’ (interlined) to make it smoother and less ‘pulled’ looking. There’s hardly a garment part that isn’t wrinkled (ouch!).

    Comment by Jen — June 14, 2009 @ 11:53 am

    • I seem to remember that Bruni’s dress was a Christian Dior….It probably is underlined, but hey, perhaps the fitting was rush job.

      Comment by georgene — June 14, 2009 @ 10:47 pm

  12. Interesting and a good reminder that many body shapes can wear the same style if fitted properly.

    Comment by Summerset — June 14, 2009 @ 7:47 pm

  13. I am just amazed at how big a difference taking a wedge out of the side seams so that the hem is narrower than the hip . I made a sheath for friend of mine in a pattern I cant remember the name and number of . The dress was transformed from OK to sensational just by taking in the side seam by about an inch from the hip to the hem and them by taking particular care with the hem length which seams to have a “sweet ” point according to the individual leg type and shape and the shoes being worn. On the subject of darts or Princess. I have been disappointed by vertical darts to shape a sheath . They seem to leave excess fabric at the bottom point . I think that I will go with princess from now on.

    Comment by marianne — June 14, 2009 @ 8:06 pm

    • That silhouette is much better when the skirt is pegged – you are right. I usually take 1/2″ in from the widest part of the hip down with at straight line to the hem.

      Comment by georgene — June 14, 2009 @ 10:49 pm

  14. My go-to sheath dress pattern is Butterick 4386. Love the sheath dress, and I’m happy to see you posting about this basic. Love that pleated detail on the front panel too – I notice that pleating showing up on runways all over the place this season.

    Comment by Marji — June 14, 2009 @ 9:48 pm

    • Thanks for the link to your pattern review. Lots of great construction tips in that review!

      Comment by georgene — June 14, 2009 @ 10:43 pm

  15. Thanks for the links. Very interesting to see. Love a good sheath dress.

    Comment by Vicki — June 16, 2009 @ 5:39 am

  16. See now Madeline Albright should know that when seated its best to cross your legs only at the ankles, and you need to sit straight and lean slightly forward in the chair as well. Watch the Queen – that’s how she does it.

    Comment by Phyllis — June 21, 2009 @ 7:47 pm

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