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The Kelly Dress

the cast!

This summer I was in a short film that my friend Kelly produced and also starred in, and we had a crazy amount of fun. Although me and Kelly have been friends for several years, this was our first opportunity to work together, and I appreciated us to getting to know each other in a new way through our “work” modes. Although short indie films almost always have a wardrobe supervisor, they tend to try and pull from an actor’s own closet whenever possible, which cuts down on costs and time since they won’t have to buy anything new for an actor and they know that whatever the actor brings will fit them and not need alterations. My character wore a cream colored pair of Ginger Jeans and a Grainline Hemlock Tee (it’s a free pattern!) pulled from my closet, of course, and Kelly brought in a white RTW button down dress that she found at the mall. I loved this dress as soon as I saw it on a hanger and I loved it even more once I saw her wearing it. It was a very simple design, but still not one I had seen out in the world very often. It had a fitted darted bodice with short sleeves attached to a gathered skirt, large buttons going down the front, and two big patch pockets on the sides. Needless to say, I immediately started dreaming up my own version!

You would think that such a simple silhouette would be an easy pattern to track down, but I had a really hard time finding exactly what I wanted (I made this dress several months ago, by the way), and ultimately it seemed easier to just hack something I already had. It took a while to figure out which pattern to use the bodice from- again, such a simple design and fit, but I couldn’t find a bodice that also had sleeves I liked. I decided to go with the Holly Jumpsuit from By Hand London, a pattern from my stash that I tried making for myself years ago with no success. I had issues getting in and out of the garment since it has a side zip that was still too short to accommodate my hips fitting through the waist circumference, and I wasn’t skilled enough at the time to know any other way to make it work. The bodice was exactly what I wanted for the Kelly Dress- it had a bust and a waist dart, roomy sleeves, and a front button placket opening.

I used a gorgeous pink silk linen from Blackbird Fabrics as both my fashion and lining fabric and got to work on making the adjustments necessary for the bodice- mainly I wanted the button band to be wider, which I also needed to adjust to attach it to a skirt that would also have a button placket (the original Holly Jumpsuit  design has a bodice that attaches to a closed-front waist). I sewed up the bodice first without the sleeves to try it on for fit and realized that the back was puckering up around my shoulders and neck (which it also did the first time I had made it!) so I had to add a small dart at the back neckline on each side.

Next I attached my sleeves and was really disappointed to see that they did not work on my body at all. The sleeves were super tight and the fabric was stretched taught across my bicep. Now, to be fair, I do work out, but to be even fairer, I only use like, 3 pound weights in my body sculpt classes, so I’m not the Incredible Hulk or anything! I am unsure why these sleeves were so tight since I have made other BHL patterns with no issues at all, and was stumped on what to do to fix them- I wasn’t convinced that giving the sleeves more width would resolve the issue since the sleeves were making the whole bodice sit awkwardly, even in areas where it seemed like the tight part of the sleeves wouldn’t affect it. I thought maybe the whole bodice needed some kind of adjustment around the arms/bust, but then I remembered that when I tried the bodice on without the sleeves, it fit almost perfectly. So I saved myself the headache and left the sleeves off the final version. Although I love the look of the sleeves on the dress, it wasn’t what originally caught my eye about the garment, so all was not lost.

Once I got the bodice looking how I wanted it to, I attached it to the skirt of the Jessica Dress by SewDef Patterns, a dress I absolutely love. It’s basically just three rectangles sewn together with a button placket in the front center, but that’s all I needed! In hindsight, I could have gone with a skirt that had less gathered material at the waistline (my skirt is fuller than Kelly’s, and I actually did take out some of the width of the pattern pieces of the Jessica dress for this hack and it still came out this full)  but I was too lazy to try and find another skirt in my stash that had this shape. I attached the big patch pockets to the sides of the skirt, sewed the top and bottom halves together, and then worked on my button placket.

Aside from getting the bodice to fit right, the button placket was the only other thing to give me a lot of trouble. It’s because of the silk linen I used, which was easy enough to sew regular seams with, but once it came to top stitching, the fabric had a hard time staying put. It would gather and gape and stretch and pull, even with my walking foot, and I had to take the stitching out more than once to get everything lined up and looking clean. It’s fine- not perfect, but fine! The stitching on the button bands is a little bit wobbly and it’s even more apparent because I didn’t use a thread that was super close in color to my fabric, but I’m not pressed about it- the 3 foot rule applies beautifully to this make!

This is a pretty great and easy dress to wear- although it was drafted to fit very closely to my body, the linen softens and relaxes very quickly so that it has a slightly roomy, loose fit around the waist without looking like it’s hanging off my body. I LOVE the big pockets and how they look on the dress, but they are SO big that the tops tend to collapse a bit, something that is also owed to the beautifully soft, drapey fabric I used. I keep debating whether or not to add buttons to the top of them and attach it to the skirt so they will stay closed, but if I do that, I won’t be able to stuff my hands in my pockets, which is pretty much the only thing I want to do when I wear this dress. Speaking of buttons, I bought these at my favorite store, Button Button, in Vancouver last year and I am so glad I found a great project to put them on! They are copper colored like a penny, and have a really cool graphic design on them, and I think they liven this simple dress up a lot.

These photos were taken at Hearst Castle when we took our friend Lawrence to the estate for the first time- he had never been before and Claire and I have gone multiple times, so we thought it would be a fun trip! We did our first night tour the day before these pics were taken and then took advantage of the daylight and stunning views for our second tour. I didn’t have a lot of makeup with me, I was tired, and I am generally uncomfortable taking pictures in front of random people, so these aren’t the best photos in the world, but when you have an unblogged garment with you at Hearst Castle, YOU TAKE THE PHOTOS ANYWAYS, lol.

Oh yeah, and a one good shot of my sandals that I made this past spring! I love these shoes- they have gotten looser over time because leather relaxes and because I was experimenting with this style and probably could have made them fit slightly tighter but at the time I didn’t know any better…but they are still super comfortable and pretty!

Thanks, Claire, for the shots, thanks, Lawrence for the fun road trip, and thanks, Kelly for the inspiration for this dress!!!!!

 

The $34 Dress

A couple of years ago Claire took me on a surprise weekend trip for our anniversary to a small town in southern California a few hours away from us in Los Angeles. The town was quaint and pretty- it had one main street running through town that was home to a few restaurants, a couple of bars, an ice cream shop, and a surprising number of antiques stores. Since it isn’t always safe for us to eat out (Claire has dietary restrictions and can get sick from cross contamination), we ended up spending much of our time in town visiting the thrift stores and antique shops, looking for nothing in particular. It was fun because, unlike LA where everything minutely vintage or mid-century mod gets a hefty price tag slapped on it to make money off the stylish Angelinos with disposable incomes, the items were mostly moderately priced. They still weren’t as cheap as they would be in, say, a vintage shop in Alabama, but they were reasonable!

Since we aren’t collectors of anything in particular, we decided to hone in on sewing supplies, asking each shop owner if they could point us in the direction of their buttons and needlework items, and we found tiny stashes of some pretty marvelous finds. I took photos of them at the time and I definitely shared them on instagram but I am too lazy to go back into my feed and hunt them down! At one point we came upon a vintage clothing store that looked very well curated and tidy, so we stepped inside and ended up spending an hour roaming it’s collection of clothing. We tried on stuff for fun, I ooohed and ahhhed over the collection of 80’s heels, and I rifled through all the accessories. We were about to leave when I commented on  the dress in the window that had caught my eye when we were walking into the store. I didn’t want to bother the salesperson to go through all the trouble of pulling the dress down, but Claire coached me through it (you wanna talk about an everyday cheerleader? Claire is IT)!

I went into the tiny bathroom that was also being used as a storage room and changing room and I slipped the dress on over my head. I could not BELIEVE how perfectly it fit me. There wasn’t even a mirror inside the bathroom but I could tell immediately by the way it felt that it must look glorious. I knew I was right by the look on Claire’s face as I walked out of the bathroom. “Oh my god, honey!”, she said. “WOW!”. The lady tending to the store said that tons of people had come into the shop just to try this dress on but it had never fit anyone before. When I got to a mirror, I marveled at my luck- vintage clothes don’t often fit me so well right off the hanger, but this looked like it was made for me. The tag on the dress said $34, and it was labeled as “30’s/40’s”.

I knew that it probably wasn’t a dress I would ever actually wear. It was made of what looked like a cotton and linen blend, and it had held up very well over the past 8 (!!!!!) decades, but the fabric was very worn in some places and stained in others. Amazingly, the entire thing was handmade- the seams inside were raw, but each seam had been edge stitched on the outside to reinforce it, so there were no holes or tears anywhere to be seen. I am really not a fan of wearing the color red and I also thought that the print, although beautiful, took away from the gorgeous pleats and draping of the design, so my immediate instinct was to buy the dress and then make a pattern out of it, using a fabric that suited my tastes better…and that is exactly what I ended up doing- a full 2 years later, lol!

Initially I considered trying to rub the pattern off without taking the actual garment apart, something I have done in the past with simpler designs, but there were too many details that I was afraid I would miss if I didn’t fully deconstruct the dress, and I also wanted to know more about how it was put together. There were certain techniques implemented that I had not seen before, like the side button closure used in lieu of a zipper (which I ended up not being able to do with my own remake of this dress, but more on that later).

Taking the seams apart was more painstaking than I anticipated because of the aforementioned edgestitching over almost every single seam of the garment, but I managed to get it done over a couple of episodes of something unmemorable on Netflix. Once I took apart all my pieces I ironed them flat and used chalk to try and mark all the foldlines of the pleats in the bodice, sleeves and skirt. The chalk didn’t hold up too well, but thankfully the decades-old fold lines were pretty embedded in the pattern pieces and I was able to still see them pretty easily. After ripping out all the seams, I was left with sleeves, a front collar, back collar and back neck facing, a bodice front cut into two pieces, a bodice back cut on the fold, button bands, two skirt fronts that I decided to cut on the fold, a skirt back, a belt, and the tiny bindings used for the side opening of the dress. I then placed each pattern piece over translucent paper and traced them, making sure to mark the stitch line and add 5/8″ seam allowance. This part was also painstaking because the stitch line and the edgestitch lines were hard to tell apart, so I guesstimated when necessary and tried to true all my paper pieces once I had them all plotted out (I didn’t do a very good job of this, but I did well enough that I am wearing a finished dress in these photos that isn’t falling off my body, lol).

Cutting this dress out from the narrow 2 yards of mint green raw silk I have had in my stash for over a year was very challenging. I was terrified that I wouldn’t have enough room for all the pieces but I forged ahead because I was so determined that this was the fabric that needed to be paired with this design (and I am very glad I was so headstrong because I think the end result is pretty stunning). Ultimately I had to puzzle piece everything together very carefully and shorten the sleeves by a couple of inches to make enough room for everything else, but I DID IT!

 

This dress came together fairly easily, and the most fun part was seeing the large, oddly shaped pattern pieces for the bodice accordion together to make the most beautiful pleated bodice I have ever sewn. Raw silk behaves very differently than the manageable cotton/linen that the original dress is made of, so of course the finished product also looks very different- they are almost like two different dresses. I love sewing with raw silk- it’s unlike anything I have ever worked with, but it doesn’t press super well and it has a lot of body and cushy-ness to it, so the pleats didn’t like to stay put as I was constructing the bodice and I had to reposition them a lot. I also learned that I prefer to make pleats based on ironing the folds down rather than based on pinning notches together, so it took me a lot of time to get everything just right since I was essentially creating the construction order as I went along. I realized that there is only one set of actual darts in this dress- everything else is a pleat folded into a triangular dart shape, which gives the dress a lot more ease and comfort, and is probably why I fell so in love with it when I first tried it on.

After finally getting the bodice pleats uniform and neat looking, I moved onto the button bands and realized that I should have constructed them differently than in the original dress, only because my fabric was so thick and made those seams a lot bulkier than they needed to be. I easily could have omitted the band and simply added length to the front center of the bodice and folded it in on itself, applying some interfacing to the inside piece. To make up for the bulk, I graded the seams to make them as flat as possible, and although it’s a bit thick there, it’s not visually noticeable.

The pleats on both the bodice and skirt are sewn down for several inches to ensure they hold their place and stay looking nice and neat, a technique I have applied to other garments in the past and appreciated seeing on this vintage item. After sewing the back skirt darts and front skirt pleats, I basted the bodice and skirt together and tried it on to see how it was looking, and it! was! GLORIOUSSSSS!!!!! I decided at this point to use a side zipper on my dress in place of the tiny snap band that the original dress was sewn with. I love how the the hidden snap closure looks on the red dress and it seemed relatively easy to replicate, but I could tell that my cush-y, ravel-y raw silk was going to be a huge pain when working with all these fiddly bits and I was worried I would not be able to get the bulky seams to lay very flat. Using a zipper allowed me to get away with just serging the raw edges instead of having to enclose them with binding, and I’m okay with that, although a future iteration of this dress might feature the cute snap enclosure.

I did decide to bring in the side seams a tiny bit more at the waist, and now that the dress is complete I realize I could have brought it in maybe even another one inch in total- I could stand for it to be a tiny bit more snug. Thankfully the attached belt kind of eases in that extra fabric around my waist without the dress seeming like it’s too big, and I can alter the pattern pieces a bit the next time I make this dress. I am SO glad that I ended up having enough fabric to squeeze out the belt! Of course I had to puzzle piece some of my scraps together to make it happen, but I did it! One of my favorite things in sewing is when I manage to use up almost my entire yardage with barely any scraps leftover. I always try and get the bare minimum of yardage required for a garment, which of course can bite me in the ass when I make a mistake or miscalculate how my pieces need to be laid out for max efficiency, but when it works out well and I have only a tiny handful of pieces to throw into the fabric recycling bin? There is nothing better!

Now that I am finished, I am super impressed with how this dress came out, and I am glad to be reminded at how fun and rewarding deconstructed pattern making can be. With the difference between my fabric choice and the original garment, this dress could have easily come out ill-fitting or missing that special something that attracted me to the dress in the first place, but I love everything about it- how it looks, how it feels on, and how it feels in the thicker, softer fabric. One thing I really like about this dress is how it works so well with a slip underneath it. I don’t wear slips very often because they are often not a necessity for the garments I make, but this mint raw silk likes to get a little clingy to skin and undergarments, so having a simple, slippery garment underneath it makes it flow right over my body and lay perfectly. Which puts it even more firmly in the “vintage” category since I equate so much of women’s vintage wear with beautiful slips, undergarments and stockings.

I will most definitely be making this dress again- I can see it in a slippery charmeuse or a satin, or this rust colored crepe I bought several yards of right before the LA location of The Fabric Store closed, and I think it would be really cool to cinch the waist in even more so that it doesn’t need the belt and to make it tea or floor length. So glamorous! In all my years of sewing I have never once wanted to start a business within the realms of the hobby, but making this dress was the first time I considered it, albeit briefly- I love the idea of finding beloved, well-designed vintage garments, deconstructing them to create a pattern, and then grading and selling the design to make it available to sewists the world over. Not that it’s something I could or would actually do – making patterns is a LOT of work (bless all you indie designers out there who are making it look so easy), and things get a little tricky when working with the intellectual property of others when you can’t get their permission/attribute work to them because the information is missing or unavailable), but it still feels nice to be inspired in such a new way with this old hobby of mine!

 

 

 

 

Molyneux for Vogue

https://www.instagram.com/p/BmpE1HvAoz0/?taken-by=jasikaistrycurious

I got this Molyneux for Vogue Paris Originals pattern for myself a couple years ago when I went on a vintage pattern rampage on etsy. I was drawn to the strappy back of this dress, but I think I was even more drawn to the illustration on the front which makes the dress look a little like a jumpsuit. It was an unconscious connection I think, but truth be told, I wasn’t all that inspired by the dress as-is, I was inspired by the idea of what the dress could be.

 

I recently went on a little purge of my pattern file cabinet and got rid of a few handfuls of patterns- mostly printed Colette designs from my first couple years of sewing, before I knew that their block was so ill-fitting on my body, a few Big 4 patterns that I made and absolutely hated (who can ever forget THIS mess of a dress?) and some vintage patterns that either weren’t in my size or just not to my taste. I get gifted lots of vintage patterns by people who don’t sew, which is AWESOME, but they aren’t always my style and I am just coming to the realization now that I don’t have to keep them just because they were given with love. Coincidentally this realization has happened right as I await a big box of patterns sent to me by an incredibly generous instagrammer who has amassed a collection of vintage patterns in my size- she bought them over the years because she loves the illustrations, and decided she would rather hand them off to someone who can actually make and wear them. I AM VERY LUCKY! But of course I also needed to make room for them! Anyways, as I was rifling through my stash, I came across this Molyneux beauty and felt re-inspired to put it in my queue. Aside from the misleading illustration that makes the design look like a jumpsuit, I noticed that I was also drawn to the crosshatch marks the illustrator used to create a vague print design on the fabric. It looks a little like plaid, or maybe just a textural tweed, and suddenly I couldn’t imagine trying to make this pattern in anything else.

As I attempt to ride out the rest of the year without buying any more fabric (not too difficult a task after having purchased so many cuts in preparation for The Fabric Store in LA closing its’ doors this summer), I am making good use of my stash and only choosing patterns for my queue that can be paired with what I already have…and it just so happens that I had a scant 2 yards of this gorgeous dark blue plaid that would make a great replica of the illustration on this Vogue envelope. The plaid, which reminds me of graph paper, seems to be a cotton blend of sorts. Initially I thought it was just a plain cotton but once I cut into it I noticed those tiny, nearly invisible threads clinging to my rotary cutter, so I thought it had a little polyester in it. Now that I have worn this jumpsuit around and I see that it barely wrinkles at all, I’m positive that’s the fibre content. I generally stay away from polyester fibers because they aren’t a very environmentally friendly material and polyester also tends to make me sweat like a mother, but since my armpits aren’t covered by the fabric, they are able to easily breathe,, and I sure do appreciate being able to sit down for a long while and stand back up without hundreds of pleats and folds criss-crossing my lap (I also like to use cotton/poly/spandex blends for stretch denim).

Because I didn’t have much fabric to play around with, I wasn’t able to do any amazing pattern matching with this plaid, but thankfully it’s not super obvious because the plaid is actually pretty plain. The design of the original Molyneux garment is very simple: one long dress front cut on the fold, two back dress pieces, some facings, and the tie. I decided to chop the dress pattern pieces off at the waist (adding in seam allowance) to make the bodice and then use the Jenny Overalls and Trousers pattern by Closet Case for the bottoms. Closet Case is my go-to pattern company for pants that fit well and need only minor adjustments for my shape (if any), and although I hadn’t made this pattern yet for myself, I felt confident that they would work well.

I omitted the side zipper on the pants to match up with the back zipper required for the bodice, and I used the view of the Jenny pants with pockets. I also added about an inch of length to the front and back pieces of the pants to make it work with the hack. The Jenny pants design is drafted with a waistband,  but since I wasn’t using one, I needed to make sure the waistline of the pants was high enough to accommodate that missing pattern piece. After grading between sizes at the waist and hip, the pants fit pretty much right off the bat with just a tiny bit of adjusting at the waist, so next I went to work on my bodice.

I didn’t make a muslin for the bodice because I like to live on the edge, and I almost played myself! After constructing the entire bodice, facings and all, I excitedly tried it on and was disappointed to see that the bust area was HUGE on me. It sagged out so much at the side seams around the collarbones that you could see clear through from one side of the garment to the other, haha! The fix for this was easy, I just needed to add a bust dart dart to pull in that extra fabric, but that meant I had to undo the facings on the top side seams, cut them shorter, and then re-attach them to the underarm facings. It dragged out the construction, taking way longer than it needed to, but I am of course happy that I took the time to fix that area- without the added darts, the whole bodice would have looked sloppy and ill fitting. The construction of the facings and tie/straps were a little…strange. Vintage patterns are known to have strange instructions, but some of the technical tools and materials that were available back then are really outdated now, so I got thrown off a few times. Specifically the area where the strap/tie connects to the neckline of the bodice is bizarre, and the instructions require you to attach a strip of “binding” (I think that’s what they called it?) to the neckline over the gathered seam stitching before sewing the strap on. The strap opens up to encase the raw edge of the seam when it’s sewn onto the neckline, so I’m not sure why there needed to be an extra piece of fabric sewn there- maybe just to keep that area stable? Either way, it’s weird to follow instructions when you aren’t sure what you’re following them for, but I did it and it looks fine.

Instead of sewing darts onto the front piece of the bodice, I took inspiration from my $34 dress and just used pleats. I figured they would visually flow better with the gathered neckline, be more comfortable, and also give me a little room to play with in case I needed to adjust the waistline of the bodice once I sewed everything up to try it on. I was correct on all counts! This bodice makes me look kind of busty since it’s so full, but I’m in to it, and the pleats at the waistline are a lovely match for the neckline. Amazingly the back bodice pieces fit almost perfectly with the length of the back pants pieces, so all I had to do was mark where my zipper should go and sew it up.

Despite skipping a muslin and hacking two patterns together that I had never even made for myself before, this jumpsuit came together really quickly- it was completed in less than two days. I absolutely love the fit- it feels casual with the airy bodice paired with the wide cropped legs, but it also looks really chic and put together, and it seems like a pretty great transitional piece to move from summer (which doesn’t end here in LA any time soon) to fall. I think this piece will look really cute with a jean jacket or long coatigan and some booties. As I discussed in a previous post, I have found myself shying away from florals and bright colors lately and leaning towards a slightly conservative, neutral palette in shades I love (pastels) or interesting but subtle prints, like this cool plaid. When I bought this fabric I planned on making an Archer for the cooler months- nothing very exciting or new, but I just liked the print so much that I had to get it and couldn’t think of anything more interesting to pair it with. I love that I pushed myself a bit out of my comfort zone and went with a design that is totally unexpected for this print- less fear, more try!

Floral Maxi Stella Dress

I made this dress back in October but it’s only just now making it to the blog. I know I will wear this dress and overall I think it looks nice, but this is not my favorite make. It’s the Stella Shirt/Dress by Named patterns, and if you hunt deep enough into this blog you will see that I have a fairly complicated relationship with this pattern  brand. I LOVE the ideas, looks, and styling of all their pieces, but I have found that their sizing is always off on me, their construction methods can be questionable, and their finishes are not always super clean and professional looking. For me, this is one of those brands where I have to read through all the directions first so that I can alter or embellish the details they do (or don’t) include; I just don’t trust that the final project will look as finessed as I prefer. This, of course, is just my personal opinion- lot’s of people love this brand and make beautiful garments from the patterns, and I don’t dislike them enough to not to ever give them another try, but nevertheless, whenever I finish one of their garments I’m usually disappointed about some part of the process.

My hands-down absolute favorite thing about this dress is the silk I used from The Fabric Store. I LOVE the colors, the pretty floral design, and the large print. The silk is transparent, so I used a dark navy opaque lining for the dress underneath at the bodice and the skirt, and thankfully it doesn’t distort the print or colors. This fabric was packed along with my sewing machine, a few patterns and a couple other cuts of material on one of my last trips to Vancouver in 2017 where I knew I would be sequestered for 2 weeks without much to do outside of work. I had a blast with my traveling sewing station, filling up my off days with making in my hotel room, but this dress was unfortunately the only completed project that was worth a damn. I burned The Pennywise Paperbag Waist Clown Pants after I snapped some hilarious pictures of them for instagram, and the raw silk hoodie I made from a McCalls pattern is being gifted to one of my sisters-in-law as I type this (it just didn’t come out nearly as cute as I had hoped). The lesson I learned here was that I needed to spend more time planning what projects would accompany me for future trips instead of throwing a bunch of patterns I had never sewn before into my suitcase and hoping for the best. Nothing but TNTs for my foreseeable #sewnawayfromhomes!

Construction for the dress was pretty straightforward. Initially I didn’t plan on sewing the lining into the dress and instead planned to just wear it as a fully transparent shell with a slip underneath, but once I read through the directions and realized that the elastic casing at the waist would look very visible and sloppy in my see-through fabric, I changed my mind. I took a trip to a small indie fabric store in downtown Vancouver (whose name escapes me at the moment) and hunted for some proper lining fabric. Thankfully I found some, but not before feeling very annoyed that the person manning the shop barely even made eye contact with me, much less gave me a hello after I walked through the door and spent at least 10 minutes perusing the bolts in the shop. And no, the store wasn’t crowded; during this trip I was the only person in the shop for the majority of my time there, and it’s a very tiny space, a fraction of the size of Dress Sew (whose very busy employees still find time to give me a quick hello even when the store is at its most crowded). Honestly I wasn’t too surprised by the shade- Vancouver might be the most unfriendly city I have ever lived in, but I figured that the ties to the sewing community would lend this small shop to at least extend a quick greeting or some kind of acknowledgement- and by the way, this happened each time I went into the store over the span of a couple months- but no such luck. Anyways, I found what I needed even though it was of pretty poor quality, one of those super stiff linings that feels like it’s made of paper- I would have much preferred to purchase from Dress Sew but they were closed and this place was right across the street.

As for the design of the dress….I’m on the fence about it. When I initially completed this dress in Vancouver with nothing but a poorly lit yellow-hued bathroom to view my handiwork, I thought it looked great, but I think I was mostly responding to the pretty fabric. Once I got back to LA with a mirror with better visibility, the whole thing just looked off. Initially I picked this design because I knew it would be simple to lengthen the dress to a maxi, and I had been wanting one of those easy-to-wear-Boho-inspired dresses that I could pair with some heeled boots and a cute hat. But standing in front of my mirror, nothing about it looked relaxed or easy. The stiff lining underneath gives the silk more body than the dress I was going for needs, so it tented out a bit at the bottom and came off looking much more formal than I anticipated.

But the worst part was the bodice. I just…really am not crazy about it at all. I loved the idea of the raglan sleeves but these are drafted with so much ease that I feel like I am swimming in them. Maybe they wouldn’t look so weird to me if the rest of the bodice was a bit more fitted, but unfortunately it isn’t, so the whole bodice piece feels much too big and billowy on me. Ultimately I felt like this dress could fit a body several sizes larger than mine as long as the length of elastic at the waist was altered, and this matters because maxi dresses don’t quite work on me if they aren’t well-fitted; an overly blousy dress with a floor length skirt can make me look like a kid playing dress up in her mom’s closet if I’m not careful.

 

The only thing I could think of to save this dress was to chop it off at the knee (which is closer to the length of the original dress’ design- perhaps shame on me for attempting to hack it into something it wasn’t meant to be?…but also, you never know til you try!) Once it was re-hemmed it looked MUCH better, the blousy effect on top now balanced by the shorter skirt on the bottom. Proportions, amirite??? I still think the armscye is way too big, I don’t like the elastic casing finish on the hems of the sleeves, and the neckbow is awful! When tied, it won’t lay properly against my collar bone, instead it droops down (and my silk is very lightweight so it’s not the culprit) and the area where the bodice pieces meet directly underneath the bow gapes open, which I hate. Thankfully the bow mostly covers that peekaboo area up, but I still find myself fiddling with it to keep it in place. It’s just another reason that this dress feels like it’s drafted for several sizes larger than my own.

This isn’t the dress that I was envisioning in my head, but as I said, I still like it and I know I will get some good wear out of it. The colors and the print are so fun and it feels very feminine while also feeling comfortable (that elastic waistband basically makes this outfit nightclothes with heels). I want to try the look that I have inside my head again, but perhaps with a button down dress with a full flowy skirt, and regular sleeves? Not sure if I have anything like that in my pattern arenal or if I should just hack it, but I was gifted some beautiful rayon from Workroom Social for Christmas and I think it might be a match made in heaven.

Vogue: 0 Me: 1; A Tale of Two Cut Outs

It wasn’t just the cut outs that pushed this make into WTF territory, it was the armholes, too, but I am getting ahead of myself…

yep, basically how the whole process of constructing this dress went.

I was inspired to make this older (I think it’s out of print but it’s not vintage) Vogue 8900 pattern after seeing it on Ada Spragg’s instagram and falling in love with it. Everything about her dress is perfect- I loved the bright yellow color, obviously. I loved the weight of the fabric, which seemed sturdy and firm, offering some interesting contrast to the delicate cut-outs and shoulder baring silhouette of the garment. And I was also intrigued by the princess seams on the front of the dress, which start off parallel to one another in the bodice and then move towards each other in the skirt, creating hourglass lines on the backdrop of a slightly flared A line skirt. A lot of interesting features in one garment, but subtle enough to not appear too overwhelming, in my opinion.

I chose a fabric from my stash that I had just recently picked up for my monthly allotment at The Fabric Store, a barely mid-weight silk cotton in a beautiful large navy and white floral print. I fall in love with pretty much every silk cotton I get my hands on and this one was no different- it sews up with the ease of a regular quilting cotton, but it has a different kind of texture- soft and silky and crisp, with the tiniest bit of texture to it. It’s hard to explain how it feels between my fingers, all I know is that I love wearing it and working with it.

I knew to make a muslin before I cut out my fashion fabric since Big 4s are big on me and this garment in particular is designed to fit like a glove. When I announced on IG that I would be making this dress, Ada let me know that the cut outs were positioned in places that would make it difficult to wear a regular bra without it peeking through, so I was even more convinced that the dress would need to hug my bust and waist so that I could go braless without the fabric sagging or bunching up anywhere.

I cut out a size 10 graded to a 12 in the hips, sewed it up and tried it on, and it was even bigger than I had imagined it would be. The bodice was pretty much a perfect fit and I didn’t make any adjustments there- in comparison the waist was a pretty good fit as well, but the hips were much too roomy. There are a lot of interestingly shaped panels to this skirt but it didn’t make the adjustments too difficult. I left the side seams intact and instead focused on adjusting the princess seams in the side front and the side back panel pieces. The two curved seams in the front needed the most tweaking because subtle changes in those lines seemed to affect the fit most dramatically, and I also wanted them to mirror the lines of my own body as much as possible. Since these patterns tend to be drafted for someone several inches taller than myself, the “hourglass” seams on the front of the skirt just didn’t align with the curves of my own body, so I had to completely re-work them, but I was fairly successful with it in the end. I left out the bias strip cut outs on my muslin since I was only muslin-ing for fit. Next, I marked the lines of my new seams on my muslin dress, took the muslin apart, and transferred the new seam lines from the muslin pattern pieces to my paper pattern pieces in case I ever decided to make this garment again (at the time I thought that I certainly would, but now having experienced the cut-outs from hell, I’m not quite sure…)

I cut out my fashion fabric and constructed pretty much the entire dress before I got to the cut outs, which I assumed would be a piece of cake to finish. Now technically, the only cut outs are the two holes on either side of the waist, but since the armholes and the neck hole all required finishing with bias cut strips of fabric and almost all of them gave me a ridiculous amount of trouble, I am referring to all the holes in the dress as cut outs. The instructions in the Vogue pattern suggest that you sew the short ends of the bias strips together to create a loop, baste the long edges of the bias tape together, then sew the loop to the edges of your cut outs, topstitching down. I immediately side-eyed this method of application because for one, it leaves an unfinished raw edge on the inside of the garment, which is simply unnecessary (and to me, kind of defeats the purpose of using bias tape), and two, I had just never done it this way before, which is important to note. Sometimes you try a new-to-you technique for a familiar application and learn a better way to do something, and other times you try a  new-to-you technique and realize why you are never instructed to do things that way in the first place.

My bias tape application usually encases the entire raw seam and then is sewed down to the inside of the garment with a seam allowance related to the width of the bias tape. So this technique was…weird, to say the least. But, being trycurious, I decided to try this new-to-me method; I figured that maybe it would provide a detail or certain amount of ease that I simply couldn’t envision at this point. I did however decide to forgo stitching the bias tape closed into a loop before sewing it to the dress- I knew the chances of it being the exact right measurement of my cut outs when sewn closed was pretty low, and this is the only smart choice I made throughout this whole process, because my instinct was right- the bias tape ended up being too long on every single cut out. I am more comfortable with the method of sewing the tape down as you go, leaving an inch or so free on either end, then the sewing the tape together and stitching down when you have only a few inches of tape left to close the loop.

Anyways, I did it Vogue’s way and it was awful. The size of the cut outs on the waist were simply too narrow to accommodate the curve of the bias tape without skewing the hole’s shape, so the tape stuck up and out instead of laying down flush to the skin. I thought, ‘hmmm, maybe I need to cut off some of the binding in the seam allowance by serging the raw edges so there is less fabric in the outside curve of the tape?’, and then I proceeded to do exactly that. Serging the edges did not help it at all, and now I had two cut outs with significantly less seam allowance left, so continuing to work on them with the original pieces would be tricky (eventually it would turn out to be impossible). I put the side cut outs on hold and moved to the armholes to see if I could figure them out. A normal armhole, of course, is fairly easy to apply bias binding to- I have never had a problem with them before, but because these armholes are drafted into the shape of a racer back and curved deeply in the front, the openings are way more dramatic than standard armholes, which makes sewing bias tape onto the curves difficult to do successfully, giving me the same problems the cut outs did. For this bias tape application I decided to use a technique I was more familiar with, which was sewing the raw edge of the tape to the outside of the opening, then folding the other side of the tape over the seam allowance, thereby encasing the raw edge. I left about 1/4″ of the tape visible to the right side of the garment as shown on the pattern envelope, as opposed to folding the whole width of tape to the inside and top stitching down.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BVVV45sBw6H/?taken-by=jasikaistrycurious

You can imagine my surprise when I completed one armhole and realized that this technique didn’t help at all- the armholes, in fact, looked worse than the side cut outs (look at the IG shot above!!!! THE HORRORRRR!!!!!) The edge of the armhole stood out from my dressform stiffly, refusing to lay flat, and it even did some weird swirly thing where it puckered and gaped and made the armhole look stretched out (thank goodness I stay stitched my openings from the start, otherwise this dress might not have made it). Now I was running out of ideas. The way that the holes were behaving made me think that I needed to cut notches into the deepest part of the curves, but the pattern was drafted for use with bias tape, so why would you cut notches into bias tape?? And at this point I had vastly decreased the amount of SA included in the pattern because of serging my edges off the side cutouts, so I had even less room to work with.

I took a deep breath. After making a plea on IG and not getting any info that helped (except for Ada confirming that yes she had ignored the Vogue instructions for the bias tape application but no she hadn’t had a problem getting her tape to lay down flat, though she had used a much different fabric than mine) I could only think of one other thing to try out. I had ruined my bias strips with the shoddy application, and I was out of fabric so I couldn’t make any more strips that matched the dress. Instead, I used some 1/2 inch white single fold bias tape from my stash. I sewed the edge of the tape onto the raw edge of my cutouts (trimming the armhole openings to match the width of the side cut outs which had been trimmed when serged). At the deepest curves in the cutouts, I very carefully cut tiny notches into the outside edge of the bias tape, about halfway through the width. Then I topstitched the bias tape down to the inside of the garment.

Thankfully this method actually worked! Of course it is nowhere near as clean on the inside as I would like (I tried to take pictures but they turned out really blurry!), but on the outside, the cutouts lay down beautifully, which is all I cared about at this point- I just wanted the dress to be wearable! And when I started having so much trouble with the bias tape application, I thought there was a good chance that it wouldn’t be.

So here we have it, a dress that looks pretty cool after all is said and done, due in no small part to a Make-It-Work moment. The fit of the dress in the bodice is perfect- it doesn’t feel tight or constricting, but it looks fitted and the dress doesn’t bag out or sag anywhere. The skirt does have some weird puffiness at the seams right at the hip bones, but I can’t tell if it’s because the seams needed to be taken in more or because the fabric has so much body, and from what I can tell you can’t even see the puffiness looking straight at the dress, I can only see it when looking down at my hips when I am wearing it. Not a big enough issue to try and fix. I think that overall, the dress looks great, and since it was so close to going in the Butthole Bin, I just want to cut my losses and enjoy the save. I wore it to Mimi’s sewing conference a couple of months ago and then again at SDCC for our interviews and panels for our new Amazon animated show, Danger & Eggs, and it was a smash hit both times! I’m really happy with it and I feel super fancy wearing it, just so long as no one asks to see what it looks like on the inside…

 

Fit For A Costa Rican Wedding

Recently released, the summery Vogue 9253 immediately caught my eye (and the eyes of a whole bunch of other sewists)! I love the sexy slit down the front of the dress paired with the fairly modest coverage everywhere else. With billow-y kimono style sleeves and a paneled skirt that gently flares out, ending at the shins, I knew it was right up my alley- a garment that allowed for a flash of skin without making me feel too naked. It’s helmed as a ‘Very Easy Vogue’ pattern which I would agree with- the instructions were straight forward and the techniques understandable and easy to complete. I love it when a dress looks a little bit more complicated than it actually it is to construct; although there isn’t anything about the line drawing that looks super intense to sew, it still has a bit of a wow factor.

A few months prior to this make I had picked out a bolt of this soft rayon from The Fabric Store. Claire was toying with the idea of wearing a caftan to a wedding we were attending in Costa Rica over the summer (read: toying with the idea of asking me to MAKE her a caftan), and because this fabric was super lightweight and a bit sheer, I thought it would be perfect for such a garment, seeing as how caftans usually require so many yards of fabric and can get bulky with the wrong weight of material. Well it turned out that Claire wasn’t as into the fabric as I was, and there were only a couple of yards left on the bolt anyways (not enough for the caftan pattern she was interested in), so obviously I snagged it for myself. It is so rare to find a bold, striped-type print that runs all the way down the length of the bolt- I thought this would match well with the panels of the skirt- and I also loved the colors and abstracted leopard-ish design. I wasn’t exactly sure what I would make with it, but I imagined it would be a breezy summer maxi dress.

Several times I pulled out the fabric and draped it over my dressform, wondering what it wanted to be, but I never felt quite inspired. I was a bit stuck on the fact that the fabric was so sheer and I didn’t have very much of it, so I wasn’t quite sure how to best utilize it. And then, lo and behold, this pattern fell into my lap and I thought that the two together would make the perfect dress for a destination wedding in hot-as-hell Costa Rica. I figured that I could get away with the plunging neckline since this wouldn’t be a traditional church wedding (and I did, although I checked in with the brides first, lol).

To handle the sheerness of the fabric, I underlined each pattern piece (except for the belt) with sheer white cotton voile, and it worked well, allowing the dress to retain the drape and lightness of the rayon. I didn’t make any drastic alterations to the pattern for size as I usually do with Big 4 since it was drafted as XS-XL, and instead I just made a size XS and took in the extra ease throughout the bodice and waist when I inserted my zipper. It worked beautifully and I ended up with a garment that fit well but was also very comfortable (I can use the belt to tighten the waist a bit more if I am ever having a day where it feels looser than normal.

Favorite things about the dress? The pockets! I don’t remember exactly what I did to accommodate the attached voile lining when constructing this part of the garment, but whatever it I did, it worked beautifully and doesn’t provide too much bulk in the pocket area. I also love the ease of wear of the kimono sleeves, which are not set-in to the bodice, allowing a lot of freedom of movement at the shoulders. I was worried that it would be so humid/sweaty at the wedding that the fashion tape I was using to keep the deep neck of the V in place between my breasts would slide off, but surprisingly that did not happen and the bodice stayed in place for as long as I wore the dress (which was throughout the ceremony and to the end of dinner, but when it came time to start dancing, I had to have an outfit change to fully live my best dancefloor life. For the record, the little knit jumper I wore for dancing was LITERALLY soaked with sweat in about 7 minutes, and wore it/continued to dance in it for the next three hours. I was obviously a disgusting mess by the end of the night, my hair completely plastered to my head and a big blister on my foot from trying to dance in Birkenstocks- DON’T ASK!- but then we all jumped in the pool and had a midnight swim to cool off, so it was worth it! Pura Vida!!!)

As far as appropriateness for the wedding, the design and print of the dress worked great, but I ignored the fact that rayon makes me SWEEEEAAAAAAAAT so much, so my armpits were basically raining down my sides during the ceremony. I have no idea why. I have 3 or 4 rayon dresses in my closet, and although they are some of the silkiest, softest garments I own, they all have gigantic pit stains in them when I take them off. The only other fabric that behaves like that on my body is polyester, but rayon is derived from plant material as opposed to plastic, so I would have imagined it would behave differently in practice. Aside from wearing a too-hot fabric in a hot climate, I was really happy with this dress and I’m really excited to wear it again, perhaps for a red carpet event before the weather turns cool.

Although I would normally style this dress with heels, I knew I didn’t want to be burdened with that kind of shoe for this wedding, which was held on the very lush, grassy grounds of the hotel we were staying at. The thought of three inch heels digging into grass and dirt was just about as horrifying as trying to walk in those same shoes on sand, so I quickly (like, the morning of the day we left for CR) whipped up a pair of strappy leather sandals that I thought would match the tropical vibe of the wedding and go well with my dress. I normally give myself a lot more time to make sandals, but this was around the time when my brother was in the ICU and very, very sick, and I was kind of just running on auto-pilot and hoping to get everything done that needed to get done, while also feeling guilty for going on the trip in the first place. Sigh. That’s a story for another day. The good news is that my brother has recovered and is doing great and I finished these shoes in time for our trip! I really love how they turned out. Even though I love wild and funky shoes of all kinds, I am a real stickler for simple, neutral-colored designs, so this pair fit right in line with my tastes and let the dress shine.

The wedding of course was BEAUTIFUL – it would be impossible for it not to be, as the brides are two of the loveliest people I know and they were intent on throwing a fun, non-fussy ceremony/party from the start. And obviously Costa Rica was gorgeous (even though the bugs FEASTED on me, no matter how much spray I slathered myself with!) Claire took me to visit a chocolate farm where we got to see cocoa transform from fruit to nib to candy, we saw beautiful beaches, spent hours watching hummingbirds at war on the porch of our airbnb in the Cloud Forest, and I had more arroz con pollo than my heart (and stomach) could handle. And then two days before we left, my brother’s health took a dramatic turn for the better! It was an emotional trip to say the least, but I am really happy I was able to go and witness my friend’s lovely union and get out of the country with Claire for the first time in too long!