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Purple Backless Dress and Turquoise Animal Print Heels

This little purple number is made from a fav vintage pattern, Butterick 3867, that I first blogged about here a few years ago, but it was inspired by a pinterest image (below) that kept popping up in my feed over the fall. Apparently it’s a look from the upcoming Spring 2019 Madewell line up, and although I don’t follow their brand all that closely, I do love much of what I see from them.

Madewell Spring '16 Is About to Give You a Denim Obsession

As soon as I saw this dress I knew what a dead ringer my vintage Butterick pattern was for it, with only a couple minor adjustments. Although I love my original make of this pattern, I was excited for the chance to redo it; I made the original dress back in the day when my sewing skills were less advanced, so the old dress has a lot of room for improvement. For one thing, my mint green ladybug covered fabric, as pretty as it is, is a cotton voile, which is pretty sheer on it’s own. To make the bodice more opaque, I added a lining to it but I used a silk organza which was the best thing I had on hand at the time. As you might know, silk organza is pretty transparent, and also a bit of a strange pairing for cotton voile- while it successfully beefed up the body of the bodice, it doesn’t really flow well with the voile since the qualities of the two textiles is so different. I also used a white organza which just soaked up my deodorant marks over the years and turned the pits to a sickly green-ish yellow color (my preferred natural deodorants are made with Bentonite clay, which is a MOTHER to get out of light-colored fabric!)

The main adjustment I needed to make to create the Madewell inspired dress was to simply change the angle of the back bodice pieces so that they overlapped at the very top where the neckline is instead of the center. I basically just eyeballed this part and curved the neckline of the back instead of angling it down, then adjusted the bottom of the back bodice lines to meet up with it- everything else I kept the same.

I used a cut of beefy sandwashed rayon that I purchased at Promenade Fabrics on a trip Claire and I took to NOLA last December (SHOUT TO THE GERIATRATRIC CREW!!!!!), and I sewed this entire dress up while shooting in Vancouver this past February, which makes this dress my first #sewnawayfromhome of 2019!

It was a smart project to sew while out of town- I have learned to choose projects that I am familiar with and know will not need a ton of fitting adjustments. Aside from the hacking of the back bodice and creating a lining (the pattern doesn’t call for the dress to be lined at the bodice, but I prefer it that way since it’s basically a backless garment that I don’t want to wear a bra with- lining it gives my babygirls in the front some extra coverage and protection from the cold!), everything else was sewn according to the instructions.

This dress comes with nice, deep pockets, a button closure in the back that goes all the way down the skirt, and a lot of flexibility in terms of fitting- since the gathered skirt is essentially attached separately to the bodice (they only meet at the waistband), it’s easy to make any adjustments necessary at the very end stages of construction.

Again, I still really love my ladybug version, but this purple remix is a real win! It can obviously be dressed down, but I had no idea how chic it would look when paired with heels! I love the body of the fabric- it feels substantial and weighty, but not heavy- in fact, it’s light enough for the skirt to look really full and airy, and the sheen of the fabric in certain light makes the texture look luxurious! And my dress looks even chicer than the one in the inspo pic, if I do say so myself- the Madewell dress has drag lines and scrunching on the back bodice that looks like it either doesn’t fit well around the arms or is just baggy. Jasika 1 Madewell 0.

Now let’s talk about heels!

Inspo shoe:

Check out www.TheStyleBouquet.com #Gucci

I was very excited to get an invite to NYC in early March to take a 3-day shoe making class with the I Can Make Shoes team which is based out of London. I have been shouting them out on IG for a while now because they carry hard to find supplies and have some great free youtube tutorials available on their channel, and although I have been making heels for a while now, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to learn something new and continue elevating my skills…which I totally did! I had actually taken a satellite class of theirs several years ago when they came to LA for a one day sandaled heel making class, but the most recent class I took with them was 10 times better- for one thing it was taught by Amanda, founder of the company, who was super knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and patient with each of her 10 students, and the setup was much more efficient- 3 days gave us plenty of time to design, plan out, and implement our shoe makes, and we got to work at Brooklyn Shoe Space, a really fantastic shoe making studio in Brooklyn that offers classes on bag making, shoe making, and more. There were so many amazing machines to use at BKSS and I only knew what like, 4 of them were for- there were belt sanders and special leather sewing machines among them, but my favorite was the vented table in the basement that sucked all of the toxic fumes from the rubber cement glue out of the room so you could glue your shoes without passing out from the smell- brilliant!

I soaked up all the wisdom that Amanda and her assistants had to offer, and among the most helpful techniques I learned/clarification on was covering the heel! I have always had a lot of trouble getting a nice, clean-looking heel for my shoes out of leather, but I was cutting out the shape all wrong- Amanda showed me a way to cut a vaguely mushroom shape out of the leather and then make Y-cuts (god, I hate Y-cuts!) along the allowance edges to fold them in, then how to cover the front with a leaf and another piece of leather to get everything smooth looking. I even used a really thick suede to cover my heels and I didn’t have to skive down the edges- with her technique, everything laid down beautifully! I also learned how to make a sole that tucks underneath the heel of the shoe as opposed to flowing down the front of the heel. I actually prefer a sole that goes from heel tip to toe because I think it gives a skinny heel a little more stability with memade shoes, but it’s definitely a great technique to use for wider, thicker heels, and I am so excited to recreate them. Oh! And I also learned how to do the quick version of “welting” a shoe! It’s not really welting, of course- it’s actually just using randing as a decorative edge around the sole of the shoe but I have always liked how those looked and I never knew how to do it! I liked it so much that I bought like 4 yards of randing from my fav shoe components place in anticipation of actually learning how to do it, and YAY WOO HOO the time has finally come!

 

As you can tell, I am SUPER inspired to make more shoes with everything I have been learning! At this point I still prefer to stalk cool shoe designs on pinterest and use that as a jumping off point- I don’t have enough skills (or perhaps creativity, lol) to design shoes on my own- I mean, I’ve done it in the past, but they are not always successful. I think a lot of that comes from me wanting to make sure I create something that I am going to love and that will be wearable, and there are a lot of rules to shoe design that I am completely ignorant of. It’s much like sewing, where, for instance, you know that a woven dress will need a certain amount of ease in specific places to be wearable, and that’s just a rule of the craft that you learn early on and carry with you in all your makes. There are similar things in shoe design where, like, you don’t want the back of the shoe upper to come up past a certain point of your leg or it will dig into your ankle when walking, or how you can’t pair heel components with a pair of lasts that don’t match the lasts’ toe spring or it will make you walk funny. It’s cool to be absorbing all this information but it’s mostly through trial and error since I am self-taught, so I am slowly gaining more knowledge through copying other designs and figuring out why certain elements work and how.

BKSS has a huge wall full of stunning leathers to choose from, and although I had a good idea of what I wanted my design to look like, I was completely open to color and texture, and I figured I would wait to see what I was drawn to from the available materials. There are countless times on this blog where I have talked about how I don’t like animal prints, so it was hysterical for me to feel myself reaching for yet another animal-print leather, at the same time realizing that the last THREE pairs of shoes I have made have all been with animal print leather, lol! I couldn’t take my eyes off this blue green roll of amphibian-inspired leather, and I liked that it had so many other colors in it: it was blend of turquoise, and blue and even had a tiny hint of black in there, so, although a bold choice, I felt like it would pair well with a variety of garments.

I chose a deep royal blue suede for my straps and heels, and went with a brighter turquoise leather for the insoles and lining. I used some of my black shoe elastic for the buckle, a material I started incorporating into my shoe making after I completed my snakeskin print heels– elastic helps provide some flexible ease to your straps- if you have any strappy heels/shoes in your closet, take a look at the strap that holds the buckle around the ankle and chances are you will see a small fold of elastic doubled over  to connect the strap and buckle together. Not all flat shoes with straps have it but I have found that the majority of modern RTW heels do. It makes the shoe a bit more comfortable when walking and allows the straps to stretch out a bit instead of clinging fixed and tight to your ankle. My favorite thing about my inspiration shoe was the peep toe because it’s so tiny and isn’t big enough for a whole toe to force its way through (something that happens with me and peep toes a lot since I have a long second toe, argh!), and I think that on my next pair I will make the peep even tinier.

I am super happy with how these shoes came out, and construction and design-wise I wouldn’t do anything differently, although the sewing on one of the ankle straps is pretty atrocious- I blame it on the fact that I was using a new-to-me leather sewing machine that I was in love with, but that definitely required some fierce maneuvering that I just wasn’t skilled enough to master. Because my ankle straps were so thin, it was hard to get the edge of the strap under the needle (this machine didn’t have a bed to rest your material on, just a skinny little raised platform, so for thin straps you have to work hard to keep it from slipping off the machine). I might go back over that area on my home sewing machine if the stitches ever start coming out, but for now, it’s totally unseeable to the naked eye since that area of the strap is covered by the buckle and strap end.

Thanks once again to Claire for these glorious photos, and stay tuned for another exciting installment of my adventures in shoemaking in a future blog post…and yes, they are made of animal print!

 

 

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!

fullviewfront

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 🙂