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Confetti Dress

I tried making this dress several years ago when I was a) not yet as adept at fitting clothes to my body b) not yet as adept at matching perfect fabric to perfect pattern and c) not yet as adept at handling silk. Needless to say, it was a not a win. I blame it mostly on the slightly too-flowy silk I chose for the make (which is a shame because it was GORGEOUS- a background in a deep shade of lilac with little dots all over it. Actually… not too dissimilar graphic-wise from the print I later ended up using!) but it didn’t look that great on me at all, mostly because the fabric wanted to drape instead of hold it’s shape, and this is a design requiring a fabric that can absolutely hold it shape  (it was also weirdly static-y and was billowing in all the wrong places). It’s the Stella Dress from Pattern Runway and it’s one of those makes that has shown me how far I’ve come in the last few years with my sewing.

I remember that when I first made this dress, the sleeves confounded me, I had tons of trouble getting the silk to behave so my stitching was really uneven, and once it was complete, it just didn’t lay on my body right at all. Fast forward a few years and zoom in on me at Mood Fabrics in LA obsessing over this grosgrain confetti fabric last spring. I had never worked with anything like it before (I believe this fabric is from a Carolina Herrerra collection) and I was completely intrigued by both the fun confetti design (party on a dress!) and the textile itself – it was just so slick and soft and stable, with a texture exactly like it’s namesake (just imagine a grosgrain ribbon 56 inches wide and 2 yards long). It was expensive, way more money that I normally spend on fabric, but that’s eventually why I decided to splurge on it- I rarely come across fabric that I simply cannot walk away from and I wanted to treat myself! And I’m so glad I did, because I think this dress came out beautifully.

That’s not to say she didn’t give me trouble, though! This fabric is deceptively tricky to sew with. Because of its’ stability and the hundreds of tiny little ridges across the yardage, it was weirdly bulky, and this became an issue because I decided to french seam all the insides- I might have been able to get away with serging the seams, but the raw edges were incredibly frayed and I figured that french seams made the most sense in terms of longevity of the garment. It’s all fine; the insides look beautiful and it feels like a really strong and stable garment, but sewing over some of those intersecting seams was a bit of a nightmare with all the thickness.

I didn’t make many adjustments to this dress and didn’t have to fiddle with the shaping all that much since it’s only fitted at the waist. The bodice has pleats stemming from the waist instead of darts which gives more wiggle room and accommodates a larger range of bust sizes, and the skirt also has front and back pleats, so you can nip it in or take it out at the waist as much as you want and it wont have as huge an effect on the hips/butt/thigh area because there is so much positive ease built in. This design is actually incredibly forgiving in terms of fitting a broader range of sizes, but it certainly doesn’t look like it’s over sized or loose or anything, and it isn’t made with a knit or an elastic waist, which I love. I also shortened the skirt length since I knew I wouldn’t be able to take length out of the hem as easily.

Speaking of, I love the hem of this dress- I am a sucker for a curved hem, but this one in particular has a separate hem with a facing on the inside which gives the bottom a little bit of weight and substance.

The sleeves I also love now even though I was initially on the fence about them. Since the fabric I used is so structured, the sleeves stick out from the bodice and the silhouette looks a little Judy Jetson-ish, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing! I think I was stuck on both the shape of the sleeves and the fact that they are eased into the armhole on the fronts and back of the sleeves instead of just at the cap, which was a bit strange. But again, I got over it and I think they look great now- super unique and fun and unexpected and just the thing to keep this dress from landing into mix + match/ bodice + skirt  territory (after sewing for so many years do you ever feel like all the new patterns just look the same??)

I also love the cute, subtle detail of the waistline with it’s folded ribbon of fabric that extends all the way around. Such a simple yet interesting addition to an otherwise straightforward make. Here is what I didn’t like: the neckline has a facing which is not normally my preference but it was necessary with this weirdly bulky fabric (lining the bodice would have been way too much material). It doesn’t flip out too much because I tacked them down on the insides, but still, they are not ideal and I wonder how a neck binding would work on a future version. My fabric, which I fell out of love with as soon as I got it home and started working with it, looks terrific in this dress but it’s suuuuuper wrinkly, which I would never have anticipated. The wrinkles aren’t deep, but they are all over, so much so that it almost looks like the dress is textured that way. They iron out easily but reappear as soon as the fabric has moved even just a little bit, so it works great for a one-off party dress but it wouldn’t be something I reached for over and over again on future garments. Also, I guess because of the tiny little ridges on the surface of the fabric, it was REALLY hard to interface!

Thrilled with how great this dress came out and also I thrilled that I decided to return to this sewing pattern even though it didn’t work out for me the first go round. For years I have loved the shape and style of this dress but was convinced that pattern wasn’t right for me after my first fail and I never imagined I would come back to it. As it turns out, I just needed a little more experience, a little more perspective, and little more fabric!

 

Starburst Dress for Stylemaker Fabrics Blog Tour 2019

Hey hey hey! I am chuffed (can you tell I have British friends on IG??) to be a part of this year’s Stylemaker Fabrics Spring Tour! The tour is an opportunity for fabric lovers to be introduced to and inspired by all the new textiles that the Stylemaker Fabrics online store has to offer, and there have been some really fantastic makes on the tour so far!

I had a really hard time figuring out which fabrics I wanted to work with for my make- there were so many pretty colors and interesting prints that I could have stared at the fabric swatches for days, but then I stumbled across a new-to-me-pattern by Amy Nicole Studio called the Roksi Dress and felt a surge of inspiration. This dress has a simple but clever design- it’s basically three of the same garments of varying lengths layered over each other, so a knee-length swishy spaghetti strapped dress goes underneath a hip-length swishy spaghetti strapped tunic which goes underneath a belly button-grazing swishy spaghetti strapped crop top. Cool, right? I love how this design leaves so much room for playing around with color and print, love what an easy dress this probably is to wear and make, and I love how far you can stretch the pieces out for various looks…the pieces can be worn individually or together in various ways to create completely new looks! Thinking that this was the garment I was going to make, I spotted three different, very summery shades of tencel twill from Stylemaker Fabrics that I knew would look really lovely together, reminding me of a popsicle, or sherbert. Something summery and fun and breezy in the California heat!

Me trying to be in West Side Story

No sooner had I ordered my fabrics than I stumbled (it appears that I stumble around a lot on the internet) upon a version of McCalls 7894 that Bianca of Thanks I Made Them recently completed. I came across it because the McCalls instagram shared a picture of her make on their account and I! WAS! SMITTEN! I had not seen this Big 4 pattern before and if I had, I’m sure I would have overlooked it. For some reason the pattern envelope just didn’t call out to me in any way, shape, or form…however, with Bianca’s spin on it? WHOAH! I loved the use of color in her fabric choices, which made the whole dress feel like a day at the beach, and the style and fit were just so flattering, even with it’s weird waistline which dips down at the sides (not usually my cup of tea). Even though I had been dead-set on making the Roksi Trio, I was suddenly in the McCalls 7894 camp, and I imagined that my three cuts of fabric would transition beautifully into this dress. Ultimately I decided that switching these patterns was a brilliant idea because the Roksi Trio, while it would have looked great in my three sherbet hues, would be better served by playing around more with print and color than just color- every version of the Roksi Trio that uses prints and solids together stands out, and I would love to make this pattern in the future using some exciting prints from my stash!

So onto this here make…I was very out of Big 4 practice when I started this project. Because of my Family Crisis/December Hiatus and a busy work schedule in Jan and Feb, it had been a while since I had created much of anything, much less a Big 4 pattern I hadn’t sewn before, and I was out of practice. Because of this, I made a lot of mistakes that I normally don’t, but fortunately I was able to fix pretty much all of them!

First mistake: I pre-washed a bunch of new fabrics in one load (these tencel twills plus a couple more) and got bleeding on the yellow and peach cuts of my tencel twill (surprisingly the pink didn’t take the bleed). The bleed wasn’t super dark and it wasn’t completely covering the yardage, but it was definitely noticeable and annoying. I think forgot to put a dye catcher sheet in the wash when I was pre-washing these, but I shouldn’t have washed all the pieces together in the first place- this was totally my bad. Also, before anyone suggests in the comments that I should have used that smelly dye-remover stuff to get the spots out, I chose not to use it because I think the results can be ineffectual- when I have used it in the past it has gotten most of a dye bleed out, but never all of it, and it has faded the original color of the fabric I used it on, which I didn’t want to happen- the vibrancy of this tencel twill is one of the reasons I picked it out! As a result of the bleed, I had less fabric to work with because I had to avoid the areas that were dotted with blue. Stylemaker Fabrics very generously offered to replace my fabric, but I wanted to avoid that at all costs- I HATED the thought of wasting all that fabric and I was determined to make this project work with what I had. With some artful placement of my pattern pieces, I successfully cut out most of the dress without getting too many of the blue spots anywhere, although there are a couple of tiny, very inconspicuous places where the dye spills over- but I would have to point them out to you (and you know I’m not gonna do that!)

Next mistake: I totally forgot to grade out from my waist to hips when tracing out my pattern pieces, even though I do it on literally ALL BIG 4 PATTERNS I make, so when I tissue fit my pattern pieces onto my dress form, there was no ease whatsoever in the hips! Instead of recutting my pattern pieces, I decided to simply add extra seam allowance (via paper taped to the edges) to my skirt pattern pieces to accommodate the room I needed. Once I made those tweaks, I sewed the dress up, serging the insides close to the seam line to finish them since there are a lot of curves on the dress and I was afraid french seams would be too bulky. I basted the skirt and bodice pieces together and tried it on and…. I HATED IT!

Image result for hated it gif

It looked awful- ill-fitting, super frumpy, too long…issues I am used to addressing early on in construction with my pattern tweaks. Then I realized why- I had ALSO totally forgotten to shorten my bodice like I also ALWAYS do! What was wrong with me?!? I was such a mess! I didn’t have enough un-spotted fabric to re-cut my bodice so I had to take the easy way out and chop off an inch of the length from the shoulders to raise the dress higher. Of course this was not an ideal fix because it changed the drafting throughout the entire bust area, affecting the armholes and sleeves and making the upper bust area have much more room in it than necessary, but it was the easiest, most efficient fix and it isn’t too noticeable. To accommodate the raised/shorter bodice, I had to take out an inch from the height of the sleeves so that they would fit the shorter armholes, and I also had to extend the opening of the armhole below it’s original drafting so that they wouldn’t be too tight.

Completely separate from the bodice length issue but just as frustrating was the front bust area. It is designed with gathers under each side of the bust, and then it crosses over to wrap at center front, but on me, it looked hideous. Part of this was because I had not yet shortened the bodice, so the waist was way too low making my boobs look like they reached to my belly button (low swinging boobs might be in my future, but I am not there yet!). Beyond that, the look just wasn’t flattering on me- maybe because I don’t have a very full bust so the gathers had nothing to hold. Regardless of the why, I knew I wanted to omit this design detail. I contemplated trading them out for darts but ultimately saw that pleats worked much better, still giving me lots of ease and wiggle room in the bust and keeping in line a little more closely with the original design.

 

Those were the major mistakes changes I made to the dress- once I lifted it up by shortening the bodice, the skirt fit much better (it had initially been too low and wasn’t hitting my bottom in the right spots). Thankfully this tencel twill was a real dream to work with and the fabric was able to withstand a lot of hustle and bustle as I made major and minor changes to the dress throughout construction. I have always been drawn to tencel twill because it has a sandwashed look to it, a tiny hint of sheen that bounces off the fabric when the light hits it in the right spot, so it makes something that would otherwise look ordinary seem much more luxe. The weight of this tencel twill is also particularly nice- it’s got such a nice hand feel, and as you can see, the drape is terrific and pairs well with this dress. The fabric looks beefy without actually being heavy, and it took my sewing AND my unpicking beautifully!

This dress is only lined in the bodice, which makes it feel substantial and supportive while the skirt gets to stay light and breezy. I had been referring to this project as the sherbert dress as it sat in piles of fabric waiting to be sewn together in my craft room, but once I actually started construction I was amazed to see myself transformed into a package of starburst! In this dress I look like a trio of red, pink and lemon candies, and I am not mad at it one bit! This color combo still screams summer, just as I had hoped it would, and I think the choice looks really chic and fun without looking like a kindergartener (no shade to kindergarteners!)

This dress was a lot more work than I was anticipating (again, all because of my own mistakes), but it was totally worth the blood, sweat and tears- I love the overall look of this dress, and something about it feels a little bit vintage to me. I don’t know if it’s the poofy sleeves or the color blocking, but it looks ripped from a page of a seventies teen magazine, and I dig it, man!

Thank you, Stylemaker Fabrics, for inviting me on your fabric tour this year- I never would have made this dress without inspiration from your spring collection, and I know I will have a lot of fun wearing it out in the world! For this dress I used tencel twill in coral, yellow, and melon, and you can find more of the beautiful fabrics in the newest collection at Stylemaker Fabrics here! There is one more stop on the tour tomorrow, by none other than Michelle of Stylemaker Fabrics herself, and you can check out her make here!

Lastly, big thanks to Claire and Lawrence (BFF) for teaming up together to art direct and shoot my looks today- Claire is always a big help to me in documenting garments for my blog, but Lawrence’s keen eye for detail and enthusiasm in helping us stage everything was amazing- it was one of the most relaxing and fun times I have ever had shooting blog photos, which normally feel like a chore. I am so so lucky for you both, and thrilled that we got to work together like this- we gotta do it again!

Lawrence doing final touches LOL!