So, this dress is a saga. A long overly-complicated story of a dress that really isn't that complicated a dress at all. It started when my kind, über-clever, witty, unflappable, beautiful, no-nonsense sister-in-law asked me if I'd like to be a bridesmaid at her wedding at the beginning of September.
In her true relaxed fashion, LL, as we'll call her, wasn't prescriptive about what we three bridesmaids wore, just that it was a navy, knee length dress and she was happy when I said I'd like to make mine. Simple you'd think but I was initially overwhelmed by possibility. To be honest, this is a common state of mind for me when it comes to most things to do with sewing.
I considered making another version of Vogue 8280 but it felt a bit corporate - particularly in navy - and I ordered various patterns but they all seemed a bit too boho or too casual or too just, well not right.
LL's dress was pretty unique, a dress with a soft floral almost jacquard like design in metallic gold, champagne and a soft pale teal that her mother-in-law wore on her 21st birthday sometime in the late 50s or early 60s. It has boat neck at the front, with straps that sit right on the apex of the shoulder, a V-back with three bows covering the zip, a fitted bodice with a large slightly tulip shaped knee-length skirt that has hoops or something similar in it to give it a lot of structure. It is absolutely gorgeous and the fact that it was such a meaningful dress, made it even more beautiful.
It took me forever but I finally settled on By Hand London's Kim Dress. I absolutely love the neckline on it and thought the tulip skirt looked sophisticated without being corporate and would emulate the shape of LL's dress.
So, it took a very long time to figure out which pattern and then an even longer time to find the correct fabric, a saga that involved sold-out fabric, wrong colour replacement fabric (tip: always swatch when colour matching online, duh ...), two rounds of hour long stirring of a RIT dye bath whilst binge-watching Royal Pains, still wrong colour fabric and finally giving it up as hopeless and swallowing the cost and reordering the original fabric which was by now back in stock. Patience has never been a virtue of mine.
The occasion and the fact that Kim doesn't use too much yardage was licence to go all out on fabric (had I known I'd be stumping up twice, I might not have): four-ply silk crepe de chine with lace overlay for sections of the bodice. Neither of which I've sewn with before and both of which I absolutely adore. The silk has such lovely weight and that lovely slightly sandwashed, soft, worn look and it feels so beautiful to wear. I have so much of this lace left over and I love how this looks with the silk and I certainly feel more lace in my future. All the fabric came from Mood.
I used a charcoal cotton lawn for the bodice lining and to make seam binding. Incidentally, for some reason that remains unfathomable (although I think laziness is the most likely the cause) I didn't make the binding on the bias. Given that it was to use as a seam finish and there is not much curve to those in this pattern, I think I got away with it, but probably not to be recommended.
So after the month of Ridiculous Fabric Saga and then fussing A LOT with toile/ muslin fitting, I finally started sewing about two weeks before I was due to fly to England. This would have been no problem had there not been the small matter of a ten day family vacation to incredible Cape Cod in those two weeks. Erhum.
For some reason writing about this dress has taken almost as long as Ridiculous Fabric Saga, possibly because it was such a protracted make and I've consequently forgotten the details and lost interest in it. But following are the details I remember:
I stay-stitched all the skirt pieces and basted the lace overlay to the side bodice / strap pieces in an effort to prevent the silk stretching and to keep the lace in place. This worked well and both fabrics were surprisingly easy to work with, particularly when treating them as one piece. I didn't have to worry about matching the lace as the only places it joined were on the side seams and I thought it wouldn't matter that much. I did make sure that I at least had the same element of the repeat at the same level.
Aside from that I sewed it as the instructions but with the addition of bound seams on the skirt, to up the special factor. I did however, bugger up the zip insertion twice. The first time I put it in too high and the second time too low, by which point I was so over the whole saga, I just put in two hooks at the top. It could look better. That's for sure. But I would like to move your eye from that by making special mention of my waist seam matching across the zip. Pretty pleased with that.
So the thing I'd say about this pattern, is that the bodice is divine. Princess seams are so pretty and especially flattering on a relatively small busted person like myself and the strap width and neckline make a beautiful shape. I also really love the design of the skirt. I worked quite hard to fit it in a way that would minimise the amount of leg on display when walking, sitting etc.
I really don't think there is a way to get around it whilst keeping the gorgeous tulip shape of the skirt and keeping the overlap centred. I asked the BHL girls what their solution would be and they helpfully suggested topstitching the overlay down most of the way. This would definitely do the job and you would still be able to walk in it but I didn't want to topstitch my beautiful silk. I improvised by doing a blind slip stitch / catch stitch hybrid (i.e. a made up stitch that hurt your eyes if you looked too closely) to keep it closed, but obviously this popped whilst wrangling with my two year old and some Twiglets moments before the ceremony started and I soon found out how necessary the stitching was.
I ended up having to hold the flap closed most of the day, which was fine although would not have been had it been Charlotte the wedding guest of pre-child times where abundant alcohol and vigorous windmill armed dancing and/ or heel kick competitions would have given my fellow celebrators a sight more than they bargained for on the dance floor. This is an experience from my own wedding that involved a slippery dance floor and a strapless dress that my other sister-in-law-to-be and my uncle can testify to .... (I hasten to add that it wasn't me with the wardrobe malfunction!)
I really loved wearing this dress and hope I did LL justice despite the shenanigans that went on behind the scenes in getting the thing made. I think I'll just have to use a more robust stitch to hold the overlay in place as I'd love to wear it again. I'm not a big fan of a dirndl skirt on me but if I find another skirt pattern I like or indeed draft, I will make the bodice over and over again, it is that lovely; incredibly flattering and so straightforward to make.
The wedding was such a fun, happy, love-filled day. The bride and groom looked absolutely amazing and I was so proud to be involved. I was even more proud of my daughter who at four and a half made the most gorgeous flower girl in the world. Ever. No, seriously. (Proud mother gush now over, apologies.)
Finally I should acknowledge that the location of the above photos doesn't quite do the glamour of the occasion and the loveliness of the fabric justice, but you know, needs must; if this post was ever going to get posted. Here's a more appropriate one.
Have you made the Kim Dress? Do you have any other solutions to prevent the high level of indecency risked when wearing it? Had any sewing sagas recently?
See you soon x