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Saturday, August 30, 2014

A Little Bit of Perfect...

(Obsessed with a Dress vol. 2)

I hope you are all having a wonderful summer. I have been meaning to share this latest dress design with you but I admit it has been a bit busy these last few months (because you are all so amazing and placing orders with me ;) My sister and her husband were married about seven months ago and the wedding was just as sweet as could be, elegant, and well, quantum infinity on the perfection scale if you ask me. Just like my sister really.

I am super happy for them and it's all rather exciting really because let’s be honest, as we get older this is one of the only ways that we get more brothers and sisters, and I don’t know about you but I for one was absolutely ecstatic when I found out that my siblings were on the way. Yes, I was doing the happy dance every day for months…both times! So I personally consider myself super lucky because not only do I have two truly amazing siblings but they are married to some pretty incredible partners, and we all know we’re all as great as our collective selves.

Sharing some of these projects that I make with all of you is my way of participating in that collective creativity in many ways and one of the things that I did for the occasion was make my own dress, primarily because I became rather obsessed with a dress and could not find it out there in the right color or style combination (or at all actually), and well, I like what I like. Here is the original dress...

I found this style to be absolutely exquisite and I really liked the blue and silver combination. My only hope was that I would be able to do justice to a remake. Finding the fabric was important for this project and though the original looks to be a satin I went with a silk duponi for my dress. I could not find the shade as in the image so I went with a darker teal, which worked since it was a fall wedding. I also wanted a little less shine to the fabric and silver overall so I went with a champagne chiffon with a light silver fabric print backed in a silver satin for the obi belt. Due to the season I also paired it with a champagne colored cardigan with silver accent.

The gown has petite pleats at the shoulders, a cross over styled bodice, wide darts at the bodice and a long, moderately full skirt with a hidden zipper at the center back.

Here is the dress without the obi belt. The color appears more blue than in person. The color is teal and the first image at the top shows the true color best.

Sewing satin and chenille together can be difficult however using a needle specifically for sheer fabrics will help. I would also recommend using a wide straight stitch so that your satin does not pull too much when sewn to the chenille. Satin has a very tight weave and it is also heavier than chenille, which you will find makes a difference when sewing the fabrics together. If you are using a dress makers sewing machine then your sewing technique may be different but for a regular machine that would be my recommendation.

All in all I was really pleased with the way the dress turned out but I will admit that making the first one was not easy. Despite how it may appear from a style perspective it has a level of difficulty to it. As I now have a pattern constructed and notes to follow I find it easier to construct but the first attempt, though it worked out alright, took a great deal of time and sometimes a bit of holding my breath as I added a dart here or there.

currently shown in testing: This still needs to be pressed, especially around the arm areas 

The dress I made was constructed by first cutting the pieces for the front (2), the back (2), the front lining pieces (2), the back lining pieces (2), and the skirt (2). When constructing this dress I cut all of the pieces longer to start with the intent of shortening them later on. I used a pattern for a wrap top to start and modified it as I worked on it. I also cut the front pieces out wider as well since I was adding three long darts to each side. I had the fold over of the bodice to contend with so in making it wider than expected to start gave me enough to work with without worrying later on that it had not been cut large enough.

Since you have a right and left side front for the bodice, both lined and with pleats at the shoulders and wide darts to form the bodice, the top has to be constructed first by adding the shoulder pleats on each side (and compare the pleat width and length to the opposite side so they are perfectly even on both sides *except for the front overlap area) and then sewing the front pieces to the back upper panels, then sew the lining pieces to the front right and left around the arm openings and sides, and then finally along the top of the neckline inward toward the center (*which again is slightly off center of course because it is a wrap style for the bodice). When sewing the front panels to the back panels, make sure to sew the shoulder area down carefully as you have small pleats added to the front.

Once you have the front and back added together, you will then want to sew the outer piece to the  inside lining. You will sew the front outer fabric together at the shoulder strap seam to the back pieces, and then to finish the areas on the underside, hand stitch the lining opening closed, pressed up to and tucked into the underside of the shoulder area. Press the area with an iron on silk setting if needed. *Don't forget to use the right setting, no steam, no spray and pressing a sample piece of fabric first before you press the dress is always recommended.

Once you have gotten this far you will construct the skirt, fit it up to the bodice piece you have constructed, and then add the zipper in the back and hem up the bottom. For fitting the skirt, trying the dress on with the skirt pinned to the bodice helps a great deal as you may find you need to move the skirt in relation to the top a bit before sewing them together.   

I found that since I am rather curvy in the hip area I really needed to add the skirt to the dress once tried on and adjust the meeting point of the top and skirt piece, and then close up the seams on the lower skirt. but I really needed to try it on before I went any further. When constructing the skirt I sewed the front and back panels together about 1" at the upper area (that will be attached later to the bodice), leaving the rest open. Once I had the torso and bodice matched up comfortably then I donned the dress once more and took note of where I should add the seams going lengthwise down the sides.

You may find that pins will mark up the silk so be careful not to ruin the fabric with pins. Fabric markers might work alright, however I am not going to recommend this because I personally worry that the water marks may stay as silk doesn't really like water all that much and that is how you get the fabric marks off fabric. If you do not have a helper for this part, then add a few small pins to about 1/2" inward of where you will be adding your lengthwise stitches and then just remember as you sew the areas on the sewing machine that your pins are 1/2" outward, in which case you will want to sew 1/2" inward of that pinned area. This will keep pin holes from marking up your fabric. This way when you take the dress off you will find putting it on a hanger and adding pins to a straight and gracefully outward skirt tapering toward the back will be doable, especially if you place the hanger up higher in the air as you pin. Again, I say "pin" but test the fabric and see if holes from the pins leave marks. If so then you can probably go with something like clothes pins to hold the areas before sewn without leaving any marks in the fabric. Once you have one side finished, as with all of your work on this, match up the right and left side when adding the pins to the underside so your dress will fall evenly down the sides, tapering evening down and ever so slightly toward the back.

The zipper however is hand sewn into the gown so as to again offer a seamless look, or as seamless as possible and hand sewing is the best way to go there. Some people prefer to stitch their zippers in with a sewing machine, some like to hand sew them. For this particular dress I hand stitch the zipper in but you can decide when making your own. The bodice top is lined and the skirt is unlined so as to keep it light weight. If you were going with a shorter version you could layer the skirt, particularly if going with a more flowing fabric. You can also layer and tier the skirt for the longer version as well. Silk is a very high priced material and the longer version of this gown requires 5.5 yards of fabric. As there is no need to line the skirt, I did not however if you find your skirt is sheer then you will want to go with a long slip, or ask me and I will construct one when making your gown. Darker fabrics however should be fine but again do test them because silk is a thinner material than satin.

The belt is worn with the intent of wrapping the belt from front side to back and back around the front and then the big bow is added at the side. The belt shown in the image is quite wide however for mine I went with about 5.5-6” in width and four yards in length with a slight tapering on the ends. Any pattern or fabric type can be used for the belt, or you can go without a belt however I will warn you that the dress style is intended to be made slightly loose around the waist so you can have a fuller skirt area. That means that unlike a lot of dresses of similar style, especially since the silk duponi is a tightly woven material without a lot of give to the fabric, you need the belt in order to tighten everything up nicely. The bodice on this dress also cannot be made really tight or it just pulls the front open too much. You can replace the obi belt style with a thinner belt but I would recommend some type of belt if only to cinch the waistline a bit.

This dress and belt combination is *almost available in my Sophia shop (it will be listed shortly here). The chenille shown in the images is currently out of stock (*though I will update if this changes), however I do have a number of additional choices available so feel free to ask. You will want to message me on www.Sophia.etsy for clothing orders if you do not see a listing up in the shop, or if you have questions or alteration hopes for your own custom gown.

Pricing for this gown is higher than a lot of my other styles based on the large quantities of the fabric needed. As 5.5 yards of fabric are required for the dress and 4 yards of a 5” wide strip of fabric for each side of the obi belt, thread, a zipper and notions for the inside bodice to hold it closed, you are looking at quite a lot of supplies. With the silk and chenille upwards of $22/ yard you can see why the prices run a bit on the higher side. The prices available are based on a silk duponi fabric and dresses made with knits are in some cases less in price. You will find a few fabric/ price options under the listing specifics for this item which is why you will find a price variation.

Fabric options are silk duponi, satin, ny knit, (for the gown itself), for the belt you have many options though it is recommended that you go with a chenille or other sheer/ similar ny knit if you have selected ny knit for the dress itself), and for color options you have Teal (shown), Cream, Silver, White, Cheery Red, Cobalt Blue, Noir, Fuschia, Isle Emerald and at times a Navy Blue is available but if interested in this shade please inquire first so I can check stock availability, ty. Those are for Silk fabrics however there is a wider range for satin fabrics and you will see details in the listings in the shop.
Thanks so much for stopping in and I hope you are all having a fabulous day!  

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