This dress originally started a while back. Allison and I were chatting one day about wedding dresses. Just a general conversation about what kind of dress she would like. As usual I had my own ideas 😉 The general conscientious was something quite fitted and slinky looking and most definitely NOT a big poufy flouncy affair.
Move on a month or two and I came across this: A Donna Karan design for Vogue V1342
So.. My idea was this dress but made in silk with the addition of a fish tailed skirt added to the bottom that would touch the floor.. How slinky and shapely would that look! I tried to explain my idea to Allison but she didn’t get me at all – in her defence she is the archetypal ‘blonde’ … I would apologise for that but I say it all the time and she agrees totally lol
To start with I had to try the dress out to see if it would really suit her (I was a lot more convinced on this score than she was) and if I could make it work as a silk dress with no stretch to it. So I ordered meters of 2 way stretch fabric. Whilst I waited I googled and then read several pattern reviews. Every blog I read a said they had found the dress very complicated or confusing to make but they were pleased with the end result… eventually. Hmmm … oh well! I was soon to find out for myself.
The fabric arrived and I set to work cutting out the pattern pieces… that the majority of fit together to make on huge piece!! Trust me on this it is MASSIVE. The photo below has a standard pint glass beside it and a pair of 10inch scissors… they should give you a scale of the area needed to cut this out.. and I was only making a UK size 6/8! Luckily for me the gentleman I was caring for at the time had a huge living room with a big conservatory. He happily watched me trying to lay the pieces out on the floor whilst his cats played with the tissue pattern pieces, wrinkled the fabric up every time I smoothed it out and generally got in the way. In addition to this one piece that forms the main body of the dress there are also two pieces for the lining and one piece for other half of the front shoulder.
Now the next step I took is crucial to making this pattern not only well but easy. Good old fashioned tailor tacks. It makes the task long but trust me if you ever want to make this pattern it is well worth the extra effort. To make things a little easier down the line I marked small dots with one stitch, large dots with two stitches, and the squares with four stiches. The notches I snipped into the seam allowance as that is my preferred method anyway. I guess you could use water soluble pens to mark fabric but that could prove risky on some fabrics as the ink seeps along some fibres and with the amount of handling this one huge pattern piece gets I feared chalk based markers would rub away far too easily. The kinds of marker that ‘air vanish’ would quite probably do just that before you get to use them. Once all my tailor tacks were done and the pattern pieces removed I could finally begin construction.
Personally I found the instructions easy to follow and my careful marking definitely helped. I could quite imagine sewers getting easily confused as a lot of markings are close together and getting the right one could prove difficult if not clear. I resolved, for once, to follow said instructions to the letter. I even tacked the pleats in place as they would later be gathered as well.
I had no problems putting this dress together at all. If there is one small part that isn’t totally clear at first it’s the point just below the bust where the gathers appear to meet and cross each other. After stay stitching into the point you then snip to the point and open the whole thing out to make a longer seem that will later, turn back in on itself to create the folded facing that attaches to the lining. The pictures on the instructions aren’t overly clear on what is going to happen but once you have the fabric in front of you it was quite easy to work out… well for me it was anyway. I’m afraid I have one of those brains that can ‘see’ a shaped garment as a flat piece of fabric and vice versa. I’m a wiz with jigsaw puzzles too.
In this picture you can see the points where you start by opening out the ‘snipped edge’ and use it to create a longer seam and then later fold it back into place forming the faux wrap over neckline and facings simultaneously. Further photos show how I used a guide foot to stitch evenly spaced gathering stitches within the seam allowance and how the last crucial stage of construction works.
In this last part you are required to stitch down the seam allowance of the main dress to the marked lines on the dress lining. This does take a bit of jiggery pokery with the bulk but once you get going its quite easy and holds all those gathers in perfect line across the body to stunning effect.
The biggest thing with this dress is that on a hanger it looks like a rag! Whilst you are constructing it will look like a shapeless mess. However, put a body inside it and it looks amazing! Allison’s wasn’t available when I first finished so I pinched Lizzies svelte body to shimmy into the stretchy mess of pleats and gathers… she loved it so much I had to make her one in a lovely midnight blue stretch velvet. Which, when finished looked even better than Allison’s royal blue version. Allison was still unsure of the dress and even more unsure of my colour choice but when she put it on she not only loved it but finally understood how I wanted to adapt the pattern with the added fishtailed skirt to create a mermaid wedding dress… Whether I get to make it is another matter entirely.
Lizzy in Allison’s dress.. my first look at how the dress actually shapes to the body…
And Lizzy in her own Midnight Blue Velvet version..
Happy Sewing x