Dressing up

>> Thursday, June 03, 2010

This is my latest dress I've sewn. I made a few before this one but this is the first one I'm really happy with. When I started making my own dresses I made up my own patterns. I cut apart a simple dress I liked and used that as a starting point. I made changes to the shaping, added a waistband and neck band, moved the zipper and made the skirt more flared. I liked this new basic shape so much I made a few dresses with that design but it wasn't perfect so I wanted to try using a pattern.
I've found that vintage patterns have lots of good details that have helped me learn a lot about dress construction. I particularly love 1950s and early 1960s dresses with their pretty shaping, charming details and swishy skirts. Fortunately thanks to the glorious Mad Men, so does everyone else and there are lots of great vintage patterns on offer.

So I picked a basic vintage pattern (Simplicity 5022) to start creating my new dress pattern. I found it in an etsy shop called Sew This Patterns, here.
It had a basic fitted bodice which I adjusted for size. Vintage patterns don't need to be exactly the right size, if you're patient you can tweak the pattern to fit you perfectly. My vintage sewing books recommended making a muslin sample of the bodice using your pattern and then make adjustments until it fits perfectly. I actually did that. It's extra work to start with but it's worth it in the end. Once you've perfected the shaping on the sample you can go ahead and cut fearlessly into your fine fabrics!

So this dress has the bodice made from the pattern, combined with a 6-gore skirt pattern I created myself using instructions I found online. (Gores are just the separate panels that make up a skirt). Creating your own pattern means that you're using your own measurements and you can customize the skirt to fit you perfectly. I made my gore pattern flare a bit more so that the skirt would be wider. I do love a swishy skirt.

Then to complete the pattern I added some cap sleeves. I used the original dress I had taken apart as a starting point then made the sleeves a bit shorter.

The outer fabric for this dress is a white dotted swiss with blue floral clusters which is quite sheer. So I gave the dress a full white cotton lining. To do this, you basically sew up the dress twice, once in the outer fabric, then again in the lining fabric.

Sewing the lining to the outer fabric was not as easy as I expected. I sewed the lining to the neckline, turned it right side out and everything was fine. But when I sewed around the armholes I couldn't turn the dress right side out again. As Bradley explained, it was a topological problem and we couldn't figure out a solution. I ended up sewing around the armholes by hand. Any sewers out there with suggestions?
 The final touch for this dress was a handmade belt using a buckle kit. You can cover the buckle with any fabric you like. I also used grommets for the belt - another new skill!


Anonymous,  June 04, 2010  

That is such a pretty dress. I love that fabric. It looks so cool to wear. Well done for your patience with the lining. Making your own belt - that scares me!

Anonymous,  June 04, 2010  

Love the dress and the belt too. To turn the dress you need to leave a bit of the lining unstitched from the dress. Then you turn the wholemthing through that and slip stitch the opening closed by hand. Hey presto

knittingdragonflies June 04, 2010  

This is so pretty! I would like to make myself some dresses and love this pattern. I have drapes waiting to get sewed first!
Nice job

Fine Hand June 05, 2010  

What a pretty dress! You did a fantastic job - I just completed my first top for my daughter and found the armholes to be the most challenging part.

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