A Vintage Dress Covered in Bugs

It has not gone unnoticed that I have made at least 3 garments in the past year featuring ladybugs. I have never considered myself particularly drawn to bugs, but every single time I see a pretty fabric adorned with them, I am instantly smitten, and I can’t get the fabric out of my head until I purchase it. I guess the heart wants what the heart wants!

So, onto the make! I have known my friends Kristy and George for years. I met them before they were a couple, when we were all single in NYC and floating around in the same online and real-life social circles. And then, scandal of all scandals, they started dating each other! It was right around the time that I met Claire, so all four of us double dated and threw all-day dinner parties for each other at our places in BK. A few years into their coupledom (on Claire’s birthday, no less!) Kristy gave birth to a sweet baby named Eli. When Claire and I left Brooklyn that next summer for greener pastures in Vancouver, they too left Brooklyn to make a new life for their family back in Kristy’s hometown of Atlanta. I have hated being so far away from them, but over the years we have had visits and skype sessions and letter exchanges and mile-long text convos to make up for the distance. On one recent Christmas, I sent them a care package of homemade soaps and cookies and body butters, and one of the lotions worked so well for Eli’s eczema that K & G put in a standing order for it (apparently it has worked better than any over the counter or prescribed ointment they have tried- behold the butter of shea!). Every few months I whip up a batch of “Eli’s Special Skin Cream”, and in exchange, they started sending me surprise boxes filled with stickers and magazines and flea shop finds and…vintage sewing patterns! BE STILL MY HEART!

vintage pattern

This is a pattern that looks like it came from the deep, deep 80’s, and it’s one that I would never ever have suspected would come out looking so amazing if I hadn’t actually made it myself. This was a fantastic lesson to learn- sometimes you have to put your trust in the details of a design instead of in the drawing/styling on the pattern envelope- although this pattern gets major bonus points for having a woman of color in the illustration. I could count the number of vintage sewing patterns I’ve seen featuring POC on one hand, and honestly, modern patterns aren’t that much better. And to find a POC and a plus size person on the same pattern envelope?? That is like sewing pattern gold!

Anyways, K & G picked this pattern out because they loved the back cut-outs (who knows, they probably  loved the brown woman on the front, too!) and the lovely button closure all the way down the dress. The fabric that we thought would look best for this garment was all sold out, so the mint green lady bugs were my second choice, but I think the fabric is perfect for this silhouette!

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you must must MUST excuse this weird look I have on my face. we snapped this photo at the gym before Claire’s basketball game and I hate taking photos with other people around and as a result I make weird faces so that I don’t look like I take myself too seriously. Even though WHO CARES WHAT STRANGERS THINK. Except I care. I care.

Because the fabric (purchased from Hart’s Fabric– one of my fav online sources) is a cotton voile and pretty see-through, I omitted the facings and made a lining for the bodice out of a white organza (I didn’t want to face the bodice with the self fabric since you would have seen soft, non-distinct blobs of black ladybugs showing through on the right side of the dress). I didn’t need to line the skirt- since it was a dirndl with a lot of gathering at the waist, I knew there would be enough volume to keep the important parts opaque.

I wanted to do something cool with the buttons but I was stumped as to what- I thought of choosing buttons in an unexpected color, like red or yellow, but I ran the risk of making the dress look too juvenile (ladybugs on mint green fabric is already toeing the line for me). I didn’t want to do black buttons either because I didn’t want them to compete with the black ladybug print.

button auditions.

button auditions; was thinking all red or all back or all tortoise shell and was testing out how each looked.

My friend Sarah suggested I get all of my crafty friends to send me a cool button and have a variety of types and colors and styles on the dress. I liked this idea, but I am impatient and wanted to wear this dress immediately. So I kind of morphed her suggestion into another cool idea; using a variety of different types of buttons in the same green color as the dress.

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JoAnn’s has a bazillion options for buttons, but I settled on buying an inexpensive package of same-hued buttons in different sizes. I chose buttons that all had the same diameter, but different details on them. I like how the buttons are all over-sized and add interest to the dress without taking away from the already dynamic fabric and color.

The bodice back requires one button to close the flaps together but I added another small button on the underside of the outside flap near the edge- it keeps the end of the flap from flipping open.

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I love this dress! I love that it is comfortable! I love that it looks pretty and dressy but it feels breezy in this hot ass desert! Which is funny, because in the middle of making this dress I started to doubt every single thing about it- I thought the way that the sleeves winged out was going to make it look dated and I was worried that the color of the dress looked too much like hospital-scrubs-green. It really wasn’t until I tried the dress on the in the mirror, right before the hemming and the button sewing, that I saw what a lovely and unique design it was. I’m so accustomed to putting darts in my dresses made out of woven fabric that I assume anything without that design feature will look frumpy or basic, but it’s (fortunately) not true at all.  I keep finding more fabric that I want to make this dress out of, but I’m gonna hold off on buying any; rumor has it that I am due for another surprise box from Kristy and George soon 🙂

5 replies
  1. Carlee McTavish
    Carlee McTavish says:

    I would just like to say that my hubby and I loved you in Fringe and now that I know you sew too, I definitely have a girl crush on you, haha. The dress is super sweet and the fabric looks great on you and with this dress. I too have difficulty deciding between details that pop and details that compete with the overall garment. I find it hard to get just the right balance. You want the garment to be unique and interesting, but you don’t want it to look messy and homemade. It’s tough! I think you managed quite well, though. 🙂

    Reply
    • Jasika Nicole
      Jasika Nicole says:

      Thanks so much, Carlee! I appreciation you stopping by the blog and leaving such a lovely comment; come back and visit any time! By the way, you don’t have to qualify admiration by saying girl crush- you can just use the word crush and no one will think you’re queer or anything, I promise! (and if they do, who cares?) xo

      Reply

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