My blue-collared fancy dress – Part 1

I wanted to take a break from baby quilting to sew something different, and opportunity struck when my husband will be wearing a tux in an upcoming wedding – I decided to make myself a something to wear so that I would look equally dressed for the occasion standing next to him.  I wanted a long dress, because why not (even though the forecast for the outdoor wedding is 95 degrees), and I found the skirt inspiration that I wanted while browsing on Pinterest – the “Duchess Oragami Skirt”    (mostly to show off the ridiculous shoes I am wearing).

It is essentially a wrap skirt with big pleats, a high hem in the front to show off your feet but floor length in the back, it also seemed relatively simple to make my own pattern.  Just to complicate things, I decided to line the skirt in a contrasting fabric so that the lining would show through the skirt opening in front.  I had todo a bit of searching for a bodice style that would match.  I finally decided to use the top half of the dress from Vogue Pattern’s V1182  with my own skirt design.

I bought all the fabric at High Fashion Fabrics in Houston (I love that store).  Nearly seven yards of a cornflower blue satin (yes, its poly-satin, but then I can wash it and it is easier to work with – not to mention less pricey – and the store has every color imaginable available in big 60″ rolls), and seven yards of a white satin with cornflower polka dots.

I bought the Vogue pattern and went about the top first.  I always trace my pattern pieces onto freezer or parchment paper instead of cutting them from the pattern paper provided.  That way I can use the pattern again, can pin through freezer paper many times before it tears, and I am also a tinkerer and have found ways to make my dresses fit better by altering the pattern.

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For some reason I decided to do this part in the main house verses my sewing room, so the cats were a big help in this process.  After I trace, I cut out my pattern pieces.  In this case, I cut the pattern pieces to about 10″ past the waist, but not the full length of the dress as I was replacing the pattern’s skirt with my own.  I would later end up cutting all of the bodice fabric off past the waist, but I wanted to make sure that I had enough for any design changes along the way.  More to come on that later.

Another pattern item that I wanted to change was that the Vogue dress had ruching.  I don’t physically need the ruching, and as I was changing up the skirt and aligning the pleats of the skirt with the seams on the dress, it wouldn’t flow if I left the ruching as is.  However, the entire shape of the pattern would change with or without ruching.  To fix, I cut the pattern piece out as printed (on my freezer paper), and actually ruched the paper as directed in the instructions, and trimmed the pattern piece in a nice straight line.  It made the pattern piece a little wonky, but it will be good enough to use to cut the fabric.

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With all the pattern pieces done – time to cut the fabric.

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I didn’t follow the cutting diagrams in the pattern because I had removed a lot of length from the dress pattern pieces, so I made sure that I used the grain lines on my pattern pieces.  On the blue satin, it was also important to cut all of the pieces in the same direction to make sure that the shine on the fabric is even in every piece.  While this is technically the case on the polka dot fabric as well, when finished you won’t be able to see all of the lining at the same time, so I didn’t fuss too much about it.

The top ended up being 12 separate fabric pieces of the blue and 8 separate pieces of the polka dots.

On to the assembly.  I first put a brand new needle on my machine.  While cotton is forgiving, it is important to have a sharp needle to not snag the satin fabric.

I had to differ a bit from the instructions as in the official pattern directions, you add the back zipper pretty early in the process.  However, I needed the zipper to go both through the top of the dress and the skirt, so I actually did this last in the construction because I needed the skirt to be attached to the bodice.  It didn’t really cause an issue, it just made for a lot of pinning.  The first, and easiest step in the assembly was to apply interfacing to the collar pieces and sew them together.

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A word on pinning.  I found that with satin fabrics, even though you cut pieces with the grain, there is a lot of stretch in anything that is not cut 100% with the grain.  When sewing my silk wedding dress (0n the bias, but some items in this pattern are cut on a 45 as well), I discovered that you can really never pin too much.  I pin about every inch with new sharp pins, if a pin doesn’t stick in right away, I throw it away – otherwise it will snag the fabric.

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My first pass at the outer shell put together and pinned up.

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Here I worried a bit.   Not about the extra material in the waist – that is easy to fix and I expected some nips & tucks to get the waist right.  But the collar pieces are huge and stuck out about 2″ from my shoulders!  I worried that I would look like a cartoon princess at the wedding with big collar pieces and a big skirt.  This became the first item of the day that needed to be removed and redone.  I ended up taking the bodice apart, removing about 1.5″ off of each collar piece, and reattaching.  This is why basting and trying on is important before final stitching.

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Attaching the lining.  And my least favorite part – slipstitching.

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Mostly done – and with a much more proportionate collar size.

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I had a problem with the weight collar pieces pulling the front of the dress down and away from me when I tried it on.  I ended up topstitching along the edges where they attached to the dress.  I also did some nips and tucks where the left collar attached to the dress, took about an inch off the waist line along the princess seams in the front, attached the sides together, and it looked great and well put together!  (Don’t believe that you can just sew pattern pieces together using the measurements on the back of the package and it will fit great the first time – that never happens!)

All put back together, side seams sewn and ready for the skirt.

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Since I had a pattern to go by for the bodice, the relatively straight forward work is done.  More to come tomorrow when I will have to make my own pattern for the skirt.

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