As you can see from the attached photos, many steps on the construction of the dress went undocumented . . . in too much of a hurry and too little time. Thanks to my supportive husband, he took these with his iPhone as things progressed. You can really begin to see the dress coming together in these photos.
I believe in tender mercies. I also believe that we are blessed with abilities beyond our capabilities in more instances than we are aware of. The more I looked at the photo she gave me to start with, the more I doubted I would be able to replicate it. There were many times, I literally went to my closet and got down on my knees to plead with Heavenly Father to bless me with the knowledge to know what to do next. Each time, I would come back out with renewed strength and determination and was able to figure out how to proceed. On the entire dress, I only had to un-pick about 20 inches. That in and of itself is a miracle!
Thank goodness for high school dances, because of all those dance dresses, and the fact that she hasn’t changed in size, I already had a good base pattern to start with for the bodice. I knew it fit, as I was able to have her try her dance dresses on for me. I did construct another muslin shell for the bodice however, as I needed to make some minor adjustments in the design of the dress. After making the muslin shell, I took it apart and used it as my pattern. The muslin shell also helped me to draft the pattern for the under-skirt. I highly recommend taking the time to make a muslin shell on any important project. It relieves a lot of headaches later on in the process. I did have to start from scratch on the skirt pattern and that was major! I didn’t make that out of muslin; instead I made that out of 4 mil plastic sheeting from the paint department at WalMart. Once you make a pattern with it, you won’t want to go back to tissue paper ever again! It drapes similar to fabric, is see through, and doesn’t tear. I also use a brand new Sharpie marker to trace and draw the lines. If you make a mistake, alcohol wipes, will take off the marker and you can start over again. If you need to add more plastic onto the pattern, Scotch Invisible Tape is perfect. You can reposition it and it stays stuck.Thank goodness it all came together without too much difficulty. Just a lot of patterns and fabric to work with by the time I was to the end of the dress.
When fitting a garment, many people think that if you just cut the pattern out to the size you think you are, then you alter it to fit as you go. This is why so many junior high school sewing projects end up in the garbage can. The majority of the fitting is done before the project is even cut out, during the pattern drafting stage. It’s not as difficult as it sounds. Take your measurements and then compare them to the pattern you wish to make. Please ignore the size on the pattern, it does not correspond to ready-made clothing, and yes, most have a heart attack when they discover they need a size 14 pattern and they only wear a size 8 in ready to wear clothing! Trust the measurements on the pattern envelope and ignore the number, it’s only a number! Besides, normal is only a setting on the washing machine. Choose the size that best fits your measurements, paying particular attention to the chest and shoulder area, as these are the hardest places to make alterations. Generally you can make adjustments in the side seams by dividing the difference by four, and then adding or taking away the difference from the measurements for the size on the pattern envelope in comparison to what your actual measurements are. The reason you divide it by four is because there are four pieces of fabric to spread the difference out to – two fronts and two backs.
The bodice of this dress is made of Dupioni silk for the fashion fabric. It is underlined with a substantial piece of pre-shrunk cotton broadcloth. This is the layer that I attached the boning to, and there was a lot of boning! She wanted it to fit tight and close. The last layer of the bodice was made from 100% Polyester Habotai lining. I would have loved to line the whole dress with 100% Silk Habotai, however, the cost was already a little staggering, and since I was the only that knew it wasn’t silk, I went with the less expensive option. This last layer was seamed at the waist so that I could attach the skirt up underneath the lower edge of the free floating bodice – giving the dress a two piece look, with the stability of a one piece dress. My dress form is much bigger than my tiny daughter, but it worked just fine as the base to store the dress on when I wasn’t working on it. It was also nice to pin the Dupioni silk over-skirt on, as this was done using the “draping process”. By keeping it on the dress form it also helped to keep it less wrinkled. Ironing as you sew, makes the final press a piece of cake, and is also the secret to having your garment look “hand-made” instead of “home-made”.
As you can see from the photos, this is an extremely complex dress as there are numerous layers on the skirt. The base of the skirt is out of Dupioni Silk, and I have to tell you there is nothing like the fresh, clean, crisp smell of high quality silk! In fact, the smell was so yummy that I kept the dress in our bedroom the entire time I wasn’t actually working on it. If it’s possible to be addicted to the smell of fabric, I think I am. As I mentioned before, New York Fashion Center is my new all time favorite fabric store. I’ve never worked with nicer silk, from the first cut to the last stitch, it was an enjoyable experience.
If you’ve never attempted to sew, start today! If you’re not under a time deadline to get the project done, sewing can actually be a very fun experience! Who knows, you may just uncover a new hidden talent! More on the dress in next week’s post.
Until next time,