Steampunk Dress

Why on earth am I hanging around these dummies, you may wonder.  In my Gathered Hole dress? 

Well, after adding the black lining to the shell of the dress, I thought the gathered holes had the appearance of apertures on old-fashioned cameras: the way they can be closed by pulling on the cords as well as those dark, dead interiors.  This, together with the raised, Victorian-ish sleeves, made me think that my new dress wouldn’t be out of place in the wardrobe of a Steampunk so I’ve come to Bromley High Street and the birthplace of H.G. Wells, the writer whose sci-fi machines have fuelled the Steampunk genre.

Wells is said to have been quite sneering of Bromley, calling it a “morbid sprawl”!  He may have had his reasons but it’s in the neighbourhood and I find the fabric and haby stalls at the Thursday market quite useful actually…

By the way, the site is currently a branch of the pile-’em-high clothing emporium that is Primark.  Oh, the irony!

The Design

Inspired by the Gathered Hole concept in the first of Tomoko Nakamichi’s Pattern Magic books, the dress is my contribution to the Pattern Magic Challenge.  I’d wanted an elegant daytime dress that I could wear with high-heeled boots and perhaps a scarf this autumn and winter.  It had to be:

  • Warm.  I have plenty of summer dresses and nowhere near enough summer.  This meant that the dress needed lining and sleeves.  The sleeves made it impossibe for the dress to have an opening tab at the shoulder as the one in the book did.
  • A-line.  The dress in the book is designed around a basic block and I knew I wouldn’t be able to stride about if it was narrow around the knees.  Normally, I’d put in a kick pleat around the centre back but the back is gathered and can’t accommodate a middle seam.  This meant that the zip had to be a side one.

I’m not sure if the project was a success or a failure. Here are a couple of good pics that might help you help me decide.  What do you think?

The kids like it.  My OH has reservations about the asymmetry, as I do too.  In wearing the dress, I’ll often have to check that the neckline is not pulling to the side of the waist hole.  He also said he’d prefer there not to be any lining, just flesh!  “What kind of blog do you think I’m running here?” I told him…

The Making of the Dress: a Gallery

The original concept:

My sketch:

A-Line Dress Muslin:

Some steps of the pattern-drafting process:

Another toile:

The paperwork involved (the dress isn’t as “green” as it looks):

Back View:

 Side view:

Just two more days till the Pattern Magic Reveal post.  Email me your entries, Pattern Magicians, however late, and I’ll add them to the updates!


14 thoughts on “Steampunk Dress

  1. I really like the dress but I think it would look better if the lining at the hole were smoother and clung more to your body. Maybe some kind of cami tacked to the dress below the hole? But I totally see the steampunkiness of it!

    • Hi Kc,
      Thanks, I really appreciate your comment. You’re right: it would look better with just a clingy long black top underneath (Of which I have a few). Maybe I’ll change things around a bit and underline the skirt part only. (Oh no, more work…. :-))

  2. I fully agree with Kc’s comment.
    However, I preferred the dress without the sleeves with a bit of the flesh exposed, It’s still modest compared with Liz Hurley’s safety pin evening dress.
    More and more impressed by your enthusiasm and skills.

  3. Oh you put so much work into this! I’m really impressed with the toiled and the fitting and sewing – everything actually. Wearing some thing that’s not symmetrical feels odd at first but I like this dress and your styling is perfect. Well done

  4. Hi,
    I think you did a beautiful job creating this garnment. What I am not sure about is how wearably such a gathered-hole garnment can be. (A general question for me, when it comes to those intriguing japanese patterns.) Yours definitely looks better regarding the bodice than the Pattern Magic original. The smaller hole and the more gathering makes it quite a bit more flattering, I think. Maybe I would prefer a version with simpler sleeves as the asymmetry on the bodice is already quite an eyecather. But overall it is really well done.

    • Thanks Annemarie, that’s certainly food for thought. I’ll road-test the dress this winter and see not only what friends say but also whether I feel good and comfortable in it. I hope I enjoy wearing it. I’ve certainly worn worse!

  5. I am so glad you finished this, great job. I prefer your version to the cover photo; looks like a bite has been taken out of it! Yes getting that Steampunk vibe with the colouring and HG Wells ref, inspired post.

    • Thanks Jane. No, sadly I haven’t worn it once but day occasions are coming up and I’ve “fixed” the hole (cut it out) and I’ve bought a “body” to wear under it for a slinkier effect.

      Er, just in case there’s confusion: when I say I’ve bought a body, I don’t mean Elle McPherson’s, but one of those baby-style bodysuits with poppers ‘n’all….

      Nice of you to have got in touch: I had a very enjoyable read of your blog!

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