You know that dress, the one that you’ve aspired to sew since you started? I finally sewed it. Wait, you didn’t have one? Well I’ve had one. Back in 2005 was the start of me seriously starting to sew for myself, and just lusting over fantastically designed 50’s garments. I had realistically started sewing clothing in 2003 or earlier, but most were remakes, nothing serious, and I was just begining to flex my skills.
Back to this perfect dress. In my head, it would be novelty border print. It would have to be, novelty border print was the ultimate in whimsical fabric. For someone who only had access to what my local fabric store had over 45 minutes away, this whimsy was hopelessly out of reach. Now for the style, fit n flare, a large gathered skirt, going below the knee, with a fitted bodice that had a silly fold over much like a collar that came to a point in the center. Simple enough, but back then challenging, and with no pattern to even begin to work off of, it was out of the picture.
A brilliant mix of perfect situations have happened over the last couple years to make this dress come to be, like the very last <2 yards of this Gertie Fabric being taken down to over 60% off 3 years ago. And then never having a pattern that would quite work for this stashed fabric that would allow for all the border details to be utilized to their best ability. Then came the hunt for a couple “tiki” dress patterns. This pulled up Simplicity 8096 when I was at the shop a couple months ago now and while I knew that it could become that dream dress, I had no idea that it would pair with this stashed fabric.
Size cut: 24,D cup
Alterations: This one was heavy with changes. I seen the original pattern called for elastic along the back top, I hate adding more bulk to a summer dress, and more bulk period to a dress that I envisioned to be form fitting on top. I also saw that the dress was intended with a empire waist, something that to me* feels to be an unflattering shilouette on my body. I made a mock up, adding more length to the waist, but not much knowing that I would use the opposite border print to be a waist band.
Once I mocked up a muslin with a zipper stitched in, I was able to start pinning along the princess seams and side seams to make this bodice form fitting. I wanted no chance at giving my gals even a hint of an escape. Once I had my pattern I started playing with the little fabric I had to see if I could get it all to fit AND my skirt at the length I like it, 26 inches.
Do you see those scraps above? That is all that is left of the fabric. It was dumb luck that I got this to work, I had to compromise on the folded “collar” piece at the top, but in the end am pleased with even how that came out. I lightly boned the lining to give this dress a bit more support, only 4 plastic bones in all, one under each arm and one along each princess seam. The lining was standing up on it’s own waiting to be attached to the bodice on my workbench.
The final touch to this dress was to add a waiststay. I knew this dress, as form fitting as the bodice is, wouldn’t be easy to zip past the waist band, AND I knew that a waiststay would just hold those bones in the lining in place.
The Last Word
All said and done, I love this dress and may be in firm denial that students are back in session at my University, and fall is just peeking around the corner at us. Do I wish I had more fabric for a fuller skirt? Of course. But this small flaw in the big picture, really doesn’t change how awesome it is in my head. Nineteen year old me would never have imagined I could have made this. One dream dress down, I guess it’s time to pick another to aspire to! Maybe I need to go historical inspired again, perhaps Schiaparelli?
*and what I feel is flattering is my own decision, and not an opportunity for someone else to tell me what they think is flattering on me.