I got this fabric for either Christmas or my birthday several years ago, I can’t remember which. It’s an ombre silk charmeuse from Mood and there were several colorways to choose from- I’m also not sure who this gift was from (I think it was Claire?) but I am SO HAPPY they chose this golden and deep brown version because, even though I hadn’t curated my closet and gotten into my colors when I put this fabric on my wishlist, it’s smack in the middle of my palette and looks really nice with my skintone.
I fell deeply in love with this silk as soon as I held it in my hands but I had NO idea what I wanted to make with it- I didn’t even have an idea when I saw it on the Mood website, I just knew that I wanted to have it. So it has sat in my fabric drawer, unused, for about 3 or 4 years. It wasn’t one of those “this fabric is too nice and expensive for me to use it on anything” pieces, I just kept getting stumped on what pattern would best match it’s qualities. I wanted something that would allow the full measure of the ombre to stand out, which was tricky because the color gradation of the silk occurs from one selvedge edge to the other, as opposed to having the ombre spread out in measured panels lengthwise. This meant that I had to be smart about which pattern I chose and I had to make sure that my layout would work within the confines of my yardage (I think I got three yards), but since I had to follow the rules of working with a directional print, it meant there was much less space to play around with and I would be squeezing as much as I possibly could out of the fabric.
I don’t think I realized when I bought the SashaMcCalls 8036 pattern that it might be a good match for this fabric- it actually took me a few weeks of the pattern hanging out in my craft room to make the connection! I was just casually going through my smaller-than-before stash one day and I pulled out this silk, as I had done a million times before to no avail. I glimpsed this pattern out of the corner of my eye and poured over the pattern details to see if I would have enough fabric for it. It seemed like a good match because 1. it has a waistline, which meant I would have a little wiggle room in matching the ombre from top to bottom, 2. the skirt was full and swingy, which was important to me so that the beautiful soft drape of the fabric could take centerstage, and 3. it had some interesting design details, like those dramatic sleeves!
Although I love the version with the buttons down the side, I thought this fabric would work best in the most simple, uninterrupted silhouette possible- putting buttonholes in charmeuse felt like it would have been the biggest mistake ever- I personally like to mess with this type of fabric as LITTLE as possible. It wasn’t terrible to sew with, but the tiniest little threads in the fabric wanted to snag every once in a while, even with brand new microtex needles inserted into my machine, so the less I had to handle it, the better.
I was smart enough with this project to make sure that I made a muslin before cutting into my precious silk, and I only made some minor, customary (for me) adjustments on the pattern pieces, like grading between sizes at the waist and hips. I usually shorten the bodice on big 4 patterns but I think this one didn’t require it, which was a nice surprise. I was on the fence about the sleeves at first, worried that they would not look very proportionate on me because of all the drama they are drafted with, but turns out they are my favorite part of the dress!
Once my muslin was finished and I was happy with the fit, I laid out the pattern pieces so that the brighter yellow gold at one end of the ombre would be closest to my face and the deeper brown would fade to the bottom of the skirt. I’m sure it would have looked really nice the other way, too, but since golden yellow is one of my favorite colors, I wanted that to be the part that got the most action. I ombre matched the bodice and skirt so that the fade of the colors would look uninterrupted from top to bottom by overlapping the placement of the pattern pieces by the width of the seam allowance along the same lengthwise line of the fabric, and it worked out well. I just barely got my sleeves in on the same line of the fabric, though to be honest, one of them had to be cut slightly off the parallel line of ombre because I had do little fabric to work with. I figured it wouldn’t be obvious since the sleeves would be separated by my torso and therefore any discrepancies would not easily be seen, and I was right- I can’t tell where on the sleeve there is the slightly color variation!
The construction of the dress is pretty simple, the only trick for me was being gentle with my delicate fabric and making sure the pleats of my sleeves were aligned properly. This charmeuse doesn’t recover well from holes made by machine or hand sewing needles, but I couldn’t easily get around them when constructing the sleeves- since the fabric is slippery, I had to baste the pleats down as per the instructions (I was worried that sticky tape would have left gunk and stained the fabric) and the price I paid for this is that you can see several faint 2 inch long trails of needle holes at the heads of the sleeves where the pleats are. Small price to pay as you have to really be looking hard for them, but still annoying. While I love the overall look of this dress and am so happy I made it, charmeuse is just not my favorite fabric to work with- believe it or not, I would take silk velvet any day of the week! Ha!
Besides the slipperiness of the fabric and extra care I had to take to sew it every step of the way, it’s just not particularly easy to wear. It likes to wrinkle A LOT, but ironing it is tricky because it loves to soak up the imprint of whatever is underneath it (seam lines and edges and folds) and steaming was difficult because the fabric just LOVED to pick up water stains. After completing this dress I actually found it so hard to do a final press that I took it to the dry cleaners. It came out looking great, but just in the transition from cleaners to car to closet it picked up wrinkles again, lol. And what’s more, when I wear it, the fabric is so slippery that it doesn’t really want to stay closed at the front bodice wrap- just in the process of taking these pictures I found myself constantly looking down to make sure my bra wasn’t showing. The fabric is much too delicate to sew in a snap at the front, which I normally do on wrapped garments that like to loosen up over wear, so I will have to see if fabric tape will do the trick. This is of course not even mentioning the fact that one mediocre gust of wind is enough to blow this floaty fabric up and away from my entire body, a la Marilyn Monroe over the subway grate, so wardrobe malfunctions are high on my list of worries when wearing this thing, lol.
So I’ve barely worn this dress and I already have some limitations on how, when and where I can get away with wearing this dress: preferably inside, possibly outside with a coat/jacket worn on top, with plenty of fashion tape in my purse, and ideally with a very plain slip underneath! But oddly, I’m still happy I made it! Each of my makes is an opportunity to learn a little bit more about the marriage of fabric and pattern, about new techniques and classic ones, and about my own preferences when it comes to construction and taste. I hope I get an opportunity to wear this dress to the perfect event sometime in the near-ish future (seems like it’s mostly zoom calls these days, but a girl can dream!) and I am also excited to make this pattern again in a more appropriate, easy-to-wear fabric, like a lightweight linen or cotton. See you next time, Sasha!
Photos by Claire Savage, maker necklace from Closet Case Files, RTW shoes.