I’m probably the only one who’d like this challenge to last a little longer. I could spend another day just touching this dress up: a few hand-stitches here to control the flaws, pressing the organza to perfection so the fall of the skirt improves…. But it’s September and no amount of pampering will change the fact that ‘it is what it is’ – an expression I’ve been hearing a lot lately, as if we’re collectively learning to become resigned. And ‘it is’ a dress which only approximately replicates what I intended it to, the image on the right.
The cotton bodice worked out well. The nine pattern pieces are all different and the fit is good. Instead of inserting boning – which made it difficult to put on in the very first, binned muslin – I flat-stitched all the princess seams, those of the poplin lining too. This strengthens the shape and means the seam allowances won’t flip over if I ever wash this. The extra stitching is also meant to give it a utility, punky vibe I’m after. This ain’t no Will-o’—The-Wisp dress!
Do you have a stove-top espresso maker? If so, do you remember getting it out of the box new and delighting in the clean silvery aluminium? That’s the feeling I got when I was shopping and I saw this organza (from here). I’d seen other possibilities but this one made me excited. It looks like smoke, it weighs nothing but it’s tough! Not that I’d go blackberry-picking in it but no shower of pins spilling on it makes it rip, nor me wheeling over it as I push away impatiently from the sewing machine in my chair. It smells natural when pressed and cares not what setting the iron’s on. I got lucky with the lining too. I went straight to the shop which sells my favourite lining (Unique Fabrics) and found a good colour match. The texture is soft yet it falls and drapes beautifully (unlike your typical dress lining). Because this skirt isn’t lined but underlined – the pieces joined by French seams of which Le General would himself surely approve – the lining takes the organza down with it, making the skirt less pouffy.
I didn’t have much confidence in what I was going to do with the skirt but I thought £20 for 2 metres of silk organza was a risk I could afford (it took another £15 for the zipper, the lining and the bodice fabric with its own lining). Anita’s method assured me that I could make 2 metres work but I was reluctant to have that very low dipping hem so I did something very much like what Stephanie in Seattle illustrated in the L-shaped picture here. Imagine a length of silk 200cm x 140cm. Cut into three = 66 cm x 140cm. Cut one of the rectangles in half. These almost-squares are your bias inserts. Once those bias squares are suspended upon a point on the hem, they fall almost vertically. Here’s a state-of-the-art explanation fashioned out of a rectangle of red origami paper (yellow on reverse)
After that, it was a case of pleating and pinning.
Of course, once I starting pinning the skirt, I got the same madly dipping hem that I’d feared. Every time I turned my back on the dress, the point would droop another 10cm towards the floor!
Then a truly painful part: the leap of faith as I slashed the skirt open so I could insert a zip into the side.
It’s not my best zip insertion. I may just keep my arm dangling over this part when I wear it.
Putting everything together took some planning. There are various traps to fall into such as sewing the side seams of the bodice too soon, or attaching the lining before the topstitching was done. Joining the bodice to the skirt, right sides together, must have happened when I should have been taking a break or something. What a mistake: the skirt all lumpy… But I only admitted this to myself after I’d trimmed the seams and edge-stitched the bodice. 🙄 I had to unpick almost all of it. The second time, I put the bodice on the stand and pinned the skirt to the inside holding it up with several pins to get the excess out of the way and to observe if it hangs straight. Then I topstitched.
I give myself a C+. It doesn’t look as good as the dress I just made, nor as good as the dress I’m making now but then again it was a much harder project. It’s not particularly flattering either – but I suspected this would be the case which is why I’m glad I didn’t choose it to be my wedding dress. It’s been great to have to think deeply about construction and design and to work with new, superior materials. Far as projects go, it was a marathon but I like those 😉
This is a technical post. There’ll be an artistic one to follow. In the meantime, here’s a reminder of Ruth’s dress, very different to mine and very much in spirit; as well as Kate’s, now also finished. I like to think of it as Odette to my Odile!
And there’s one more coming (I think!).