Finishing the Formal Dress

I gave up on my blue taffeta dress quite some time ago. I had already decided to make something else for the event and it was just staring at me in my pile of failures. there were just so many things wrong:

  1. The original idea of a draped bodice was just beyond my capabilities.
  2. The icky polyester taffeta would be sooooo uncomfortable to wear.
  3. The design doesn’t have much mobility.
  4. Completely unpractical to travel across the country in a plane with the giant petticoat.

Pattern Review.com was running a UFO contest in January so I thought it might be worth just finishing it for the contest and maybe I could even recoup the material cost with the gift card winnings. Spoiler Alert:

UFO Contest 2017

 

I found out about the contest on January 29 and procrastinated a few days before starting. It had to be submitted by Feb 4th and I wasn’t sure I had time to do the dress justice.

I started with making the skirt. I want to do this before the bodice since I know that it will take up the most fabric and I wanted a properly full skirt.

To start I used the waist from a skirt pattern in Gertie’s Ultimate dress book.

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I placed it on the corner of the fabric and then used a tape measurer to mark a 30″ skirt around it. I cut one on a fold and two  on the salvage. I sewed the three panels together and pinned the box pleats in place, ironed them and basted it.

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Since the taffeta unravels like a beast I decided to finish the top edge with some black hem tape so I won’t have to worry about it as I handle it. Ialso finished the bottom with a blind hem.dsc_0067

Now onto the bodice. when we last left it looked like thisdsc_0047

Despite all my efforts I could not get it to work. I would drape it, pin it, sew it, put it back on the dress form and suddenly it would transform into a tortured mess. I think I did 3 tries before I abandoned it.  A quick pivot and I ended up with this:

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I had already drafted the bodice as I had intended the draped fabric to attach to it. I glammed up the neckline with some simple beading using grey glass pearls with smaller black iridescent beads flanking either side.

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I’m not sure I will ever wear it out…I’m not sure I’ll even keep it together, I mean this bodice is just too impractical. I may cut it up and turn the bottom into a skirt and salvage the beading for another project. Or perhaps draft another bodice with a little more coverage. I still don’t think I will call it quits on this dress until I run out of fabric and can’t do anymore! The skirt on OTOH is what retro dreams are made of. So much fabric and the perfect shape with the matching petticoat. I didn’t even bother putting horse hair in the hem like I had originally planned.  I will certainly be coming back to this skirt design perhaps in a more  casual fabric.

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Now it’s off to fabric mart to spend my winnings. One thing’s for sure, I am getting the Ginger Jeans pattern that I have had my eye on for months!

Self Drafted Vest

After sewing a cushion for uzzi out of the wool remnants from my blazer I figured I had just enough left to make a vest. With no pattern that I liked I decided to try and copy a RTW vest from my closet. For my first copycat it didn’t go too poorly though I did make it a wee bit too small. Guess its time to lay off the cookies 🙂

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I also had enough of the original red lining to do the whole vest so other then the buttons this was a complete stash buster!

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The insides have a wool facing along the front center and the rest is bemburg

 

I think it looks really great with the blazer, though I need to make some higher waisted pants (I’ve got my eye on you Ginger Jeans!).

Underpinnings

After a lot of research into how 50s gowns were made I decided that I needed to make a corselette.  A corselette is an under-bodice built into the dress that has all the structure and  support that the outer layer of the dress is attacehd to. Basically it does all the hard work while the dress just gets to look pretty. Having a corselette will allow me to get the  open off the shoulder v-neck I’m looking for without having to wear an uncomfortable strapless bra because all the the bra bits are already built in!

To start I used the directions on this website for drafting your own corset. I found it very useful and adaptable to a variety of needs. Also its custom made to my measurements to there was minimal need for alteration.

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I made a few changes: This is supposed to be a victorian style corset with a reduced waist size, I modified the numbers to use my actual waist instead of a reduced size.

Even though it was mad to my measurements I did have to do two muslins. On the first muslin I had some pooling in the back so I enlisted Tony to pinch out the excess so I could make a sway back adjustment.You can see in the picture below the top line are the pattern pieces from the first muslin, I re-did all of them accept for #2.  Piecese 3-5 had the sway pack adjustment and then I modified piece #1 for a better neckline.

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The second muslin was pretty close to perfect.

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So now it came time to cut it out of the actual fabric. For the strength layer I couldn’t stomach the $25/yd price tag of coutil so I used some black cotton twill instead, it seemed pretty sturdy when I was tugging at it in the store. Unfortunately when I made up a bodice in the twill I realized I made a rookie mistake. The muslin, made out of muslin had must have stretched a little and fit like a glove but in the more sturdy twill the bodice was significantly smaller as there was no give to the fabric. Lesson learned always do the muslin in a fabric that behaves similarly to the one you are going to use. To fix the issue I drafted a 6th piece  for the center back.

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I put in a fast test zipper to make sure the fit worked and I was on my way. I sewed up the same thing in my taffeta. I trimmed the seams  into points to keep some of the bulk out of the top and bottom.

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Instead of making boning channels out of twill tape I decided to use a sandwich. I pinned the strength and fashion wrong sides together and pinned along the seam ( to prevent and holes in the taffeta)

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Then I topstitched along both sides of the seam to create a channel for the boning.

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Next step was to finish the bottom. I used some 7/8″ Navy satin ribbon. First I sewed it to the right side of the bodice.

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Then folded it to the back and stitched in the ditch for an invisable finish.

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The satin ribbon looks nice, but in retrospect I wish I had gone with a double fold bias tape because the ribbon is VERY difficult to un-pick.

I slid in the boning and stated finishing of the top in the same manner. I made a spur of the moment decision and placed the bra cups inside for a cleaner finish. This would come back to haunt me later.dsc_0077

After finishing the top I help it up to test the size again…….don don don. Turns out actually putting boning in the boning channels significantly shortens the circumference and so I had to patch it a second center back panel to make up the difference. 😦

After that little detour I put in the zipper and we are done. Right?

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After taking these pictures I decided I didn’t like how the bra cups looked tucked inside so I ended up having to un-pick the top ribbon, which got destroyed in the process.  I cut the ribbon out  completely and replaced it from side seam to side seam across the front. An just ended up tacking the cups to the inside. Not as pretty but it gives a much better line.

With the underpinning finally finished I was anxious to start seeing the actual dress. I just draped some fabric over my dress form and started playing around. This is what I came up with.

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I am leaning more towards the right side were the gathers form just around the bust and then lay flat for the rest.

Making this corselette was certainly one of the most challenging things I have done to date but it feels very rewarding to have it finished. I may even make another one that can be worn under other dresses as a separate piece.  Though if I do I think I would like to do lacing instead of a zipper as it will be a bit more forgiving in the sizing department and will still work as my weight fluctuates.

 

Self Drafted

I fell down the youTube rabbit hole a few weeks back and somehow ended up at a video by Angela Clayton on making a dress out of ikea curtains. I absolutely loved the dress and it seemed easy enough for a draping beginner like myself. First things first, I checked and ikea no longer makes those curtains *sad face*.  I decided to use some of the 8 yards of aqua linen I had in my stash from my dutch wax purchase.

I used some fabric scraps on my dress form and cut and tucked and shaped until I got a bodice I was happy with. I only draped half of the bodice planing to cut on the fold. Having the dress form made it super easy because it has the center lines and stuff already on it. Then I just took that fabric and transferred it onto Swedish tracing paper and added my seam allowance.

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I cut out one from the linen and one from a cotton batiste for lining. Sewed the darts and put right sides together and sewed along the neck and back. I also did a line of understitching to help keep the lining from rolling to the outside.

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Next I made some bias tape out of the linen to go around the arm holes and tie at the top to form the straps

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You can see in this picture how I placed the darts coming towards the center. This was my own artistic addition. It reminds me of the 17th century style lines with bodies that would come to sharp points

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For the skirt I just did 3 rectangles the full width of the fabric and gathered them. In retrospect  I wish I had just done a circle skirt because:

  1. The gathering took forever and my thread kept breaking
  2. It made the zipper super hard to put in
  3. I don’t much care for the added fullness the gathering gives at the waist.

 

After I took this picture I ironed them down to try and subdue it and that helped a little but it still has a bit of a tummy pooch effect.

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All in all I think its not a bad result for my first attempt at making something without a pattern. I certainly  would try it again. I like the relaxed look of it, seems perfect for a picnic in the park.DSC_0059 (1)DSC_0055 (3)