When I am not crafting items you see here on the blog and on the Craftzies etsy shop I am either dreaming of or sewing dresses. Or I am buying fabric or patterns for said dresses. I am such a girl, I love dresses!
The other day I had a few minutes to take a look over the blog posts I have shared with you within the last year or so and I realized that despite my obsession over clothes (and dresses in general), I have posted very little on the subject. Ohh sure there have been a few here and there but in comparison with the other posts, there has been very little. So here is part I in a very long line of dresses I love and how I have gone about making changes, remakes, etc. They might help you in your sewing projects or maybe they will just inspire you to go sew yourself something new. In the mean time here are some pretty photos of a new dress. I present to you...
The Elle ->
I am in total like over this dress and I used the pattern here for the top and the base skirt, and the changes I made were I did not add the chevron design to the waistband and I left off the top skirt because I really did not want the accent in the lower area. Seriously, some girls just can’t wear a skirt like that. The chevron waistband panel was left just flat fabric because again, I do not need chevron waistline. I also shortened the skirt to knee length. I really like this pattern-very nice. The pattern is Vogue V 1016 with Guy Laroche as the designer.
I made a test copy out of a wretched green material before I broke out the good fabrics and I was very happy that I did. The fabric I used for the final dress was a really nice black coach fabric from Mill End for the base of the top and skirt and then an ever so soft polka dot tulle which was used for the top layer of the bodice and the top layer of the skirt. The top layer of the polka dot skirt had to be added ever so carefully. It took me about 2 weeks total to go through the test and then finish the final dress and a lot of careful hand sewing needed to be added to make it perfect. I put the metal zipper in by hand as well at first as I find with two layers of fabric in back can easily get messed up in the machine so if you are making yourself a similar style do take care.
So one of the things that I find really annoying when I read through instructions is when they get to the more difficult areas they just add ‘put it all together and you’re done’ and there you are wondering if maybe they could explain in just a tad more detail?..just a little?...
So with that in mind here are the changes I made to the original pattern in a little more detail if interested because I did take my time but I am happy to share with you what I did and how so your new dress looks great too. How are we all going to look fabulous if our dresses are a flop huh?! So go get sewing and feel free to message me @ www.Craftzies.etsy.com or @ www.SophiaDeLaMer.etsy.com with anything, I pop in daily and will help where I can.
Changes I made to the original pattern:
I started by cutting the pattern out and looking at it along with the directions. You are going to want to take all of your measurements, and below I will be having you take measurements of 1” above your bodice, bodice, upper waistline, mid-waist, lower waistline, hips, length you would like your dress. I also like to have measurements that are taken from side to side, both in front and back. This helps when making everything fall perfectly. When you think about your body shape and how you are proportioned, it makes sense to take measurements from side to side of your bodice and waist and hip areas because the width of your front measurements across are not going to be exactly equal to that of your back measurements.
I started with a test because I like to do this for a new pattern, especially one where the final dress is going to be worn to something like holiday parties like this one was. Either way, test or no, you are going to cut out the top bodice pieces. You need a lot of layers but because I was not adding the chevron tops stitch to the waistline I skipped the light padding called for in the pattern. I think the pattern calls for this not just for structure but I have found it is very difficult to sew two slippery pieces of fabric together in a top stitched manner without something to tack the pieces together while sewing so the light padding will help when top stitching a chevron design. So if you are doing the chevron design, I would recommend following the directions for those areas.
I also realized when I took a look at the waistband piece that because I was not adding the chevron top stitch, that meant the waistband piece was going to be way too big so I definitely needed an alteration there. In order to compensate for this take your tape measure and measure your waistline half way around from side to side, starting where you want the seam to be on your new dress. Measure half way around in front a number of times as you go down your waist. So start measuring under your rib cage half way across and then as you work your way down to your waistline. You also want the hip measurement when measuring but since both of these skirts I was adding to the dress were lightly gathered I wasn’t too worried about the dress fitting around the hips. Do keep in mind however I have not used the top skirt that came with this pattern though, it might need a measurement comparison before determining if a size alteration is needed. Probably not, it was a good pattern, but I always like to check just in case.
So once you have your detailed waist measurements compare those to the pattern and make any alterations as needed when cutting the fabric pieces out. You want your measurement numbers to match up essentially so you will compare the pieces that equal the full waist segment-plus assume seam allowance-and then compare with your meaurements-also assuming seam allowance. A lot of sewing patterns include details on altering sewing patterns as needed to fit more perfectly so you may find some details there. If you really need help with scaling patterns up and down according to size give a shout out, I might just put up a post to help you out but there are probably a ton out there already. In any event, once you have the waistband perfectly aligned as needed then cut all of the waist pattern pieces (lining, etc,) in the same way and baste as directed. Put this piece aside and then get started on the bodice of the dress.
For the skirt I used the same pattern as the bottom only I was ever so careful because I was working with a flat non-stretch cotton for a base fabric and then a super soft, free flowing and ever so stretchy tulle on top so I really had to be careful in adding these pieces together but my advice is to work slowly and you will get it. The most challenging part of this altered dress was setting the skirt in to make the full dress. In doing this you are going to want to make the waist band, then put together the top bodice center and back pieces. Follow the pattern and you will do fine but do take care when fitting the top center bodice in with the shoulder strap that you fit the top up to yourself with the neck strap pinned in and see how it fits.
In the image above I have added arrows to indicate the areas you are going to make sure fit well with your body shape before finishing with the sewing machine. You are going to want to fit the top perfectly to your bodice so it’s not too open in front. That is why when you are taking measurements we are so detailed, specifically for this dress because I want the bodice to be perfect or I won’t wear it (and I do want to wear this! ;) So my advice here is to pin the pieces and carefully set it up to your body and see how it fits. Tuck in the areas specifically where the arrows are shown in this image before sewing it with the machine and you will have the perfect fit. You will probably find you aren’t going to wear a bra with this dress so you really want the top to fit well.
Once you have the top and waistline altered and tested and made into one piece then you are going to want to make the skirt pieces, put them together and then add both of those to the dress. This is going to take some CAREFUL work and was probably the most challenging part when constructing the dress, especially because of that light as air tulle on top. Two gathered skirts getting sandwiched into a flat waistband is no easy feat, especially since any screw up on my part would be so very noticeable. So, In short, be careful here. Lay your top piece out flat on a cutting board or other flat surface and then take the skirt and match up the center front of both top and skirt so they are aligned well.
You are going to be sliding the skirt up into the top waistband, pinning at the center front and then carefully pinning the skirt into the waistband every few inches, pinching p and in so when you flip the dress inside out you see where the seams are going to be. Now for this, because I really really wanted to be careful I hand sewed the seams and then flipped it right side out and tried it on. It worked! So do that, test, and then sew the waistband down on the inside. You will find you have to trim off a bit of excess upper skirt material once you have it sewn together but that’s to be expected. Simply trim, turn right side out and then continue with the pattern directions. They will lead you through the final steps of the hem, the notions for the zipper in back and the notions for the neckline. For this I added a hook and eye but because we are all way different in where we want the closure you can certainly opt for a different type of notion such as a button and button hole, longer ties, the sky’s the limit really…
The bottom hem of the top tulle skirt was so lightweight I hand hemmed the bottom. The zipper was put in with a hand sewn zipper and then reinforced once more. You don’t want a weak zipper, it keeps that dress on (!!) but in detailed dress making my experience has been that you can’t expect to get the perfect dress without pulling out a needle and thread as you go along.
Happy sewing and have a fabulous day! I am going to have custom dresses in this style on my Sophia site in a few days here so if you are interested in one feel free to message me via www.SophiaDeLaMer.etsy.com. Don’t forget to send detailed measurements, your general size as well, your height and the length you would like your dress to be, and the color/ colors you are interested and I will message you back with details. The price per custom dress in this style is $145, shipping will be $6 in the states, $12 internationally. *Custom orders will take 2 weeks before ready to ship for this item.