I made myself a new dress, and I wore it for Mother’s Day. I have to say that this is the first time that I have had trouble choosing which photos of myself to share – not because I can’t find any that I like, but because I like them all and can’t decide between them! This dress gives me a waist! And I just love everything about it – the fit, the shape of the skirt, the pattern of the fabric – it all works together so well, and it really works for me.
So I apologise in advance – but there are quite a few modelled pics in this post! In some of them I am squinting because the sun is quite bright – but I still wanted to share them because I like the way the dress looks on me and I like the way that I look in the dress.
If you aren’t familiar with Gretchen Hirsch, you really do need to have a look at her blog, there is a wealth of sewing techniques and inspiration there. I recently attended a two day dressmaking workshop with Gretchen in Melbourne where, along with 7 other sewists, I made up a dress using the basic bodice from her latest book “Gertie’s Ultimate Dress Book”. It was really hard not to be just a little bit starstruck! As you would expect, Gertie is absolutely flawless in real life, and she is such a warm and natural person, two short days with her was both too short and somehow endless all at the same time, it was a really wonderful experience.
Plus, I got to see first hand some of the dresses that feature on her blog and in her books! I think I was almost as excited to see the dresses as I was to see Gertie herself!
During the workshop we all made up a dress using the basic bodice with either the jewel neckline or the v neckline, and we had a choice of three skirt variations – pencil, a-line, or 3/4 circle. We also got to see Gertie demonstrate some of the techniques that she describes in her books to construct an all-in-one facing, perfect darts, and a lapped zipper! I have never been able to achieve a lapped zipper like this before, and even though I didn’t do any pattern matching with my fabric, my waistline seams and neckline match perfectly!
I chose the lemon print cotton sateen from Gertie’s new range at Spotlight. This was kind of a bold step for me, I am usually quite conservative with my fabric choices, I don’t use big patterns, generally don’t go for a lot of colour – and I haven’t worn yellow at all since I was about 10 years old. However, I kind of took a leap of faith with it, and was thinking that since I was going to the workshop I should fully commit to the outcome. I think I made a good choice, and I think I am going to use more patterns in the future.
Although I didn’t worry too much about pattern placement – I would recommend taking some time to consider it, this could very easily have ended with humorously placed lemons, if you know what I mean.
I have fiddled around with a couple of patterns from Gertie’s first book (Gertie’s New Book for Better Sewing), but never actually got past the toile stage. So I was really grateful to have the opportunity to have a proper bodice fitting. Gertie personally fitted each one of us, and quite honestly, when each of the other ladies put their bodice on my reaction was just – wow! Every bodice was perfectly fitted, and that is such a flattering thing to have.
I used the pattern size that matched my full bust measurement, and apart from a few minor tweaks, I made only 3 real alterations to the basic bodice – and none of them was an FBA! I needed to add some width to the waist (because I lost my waistline having 3 babies in 3.5 years and it hasn’t returned), lowered the bust point (moving the front darts), and narrowed the shoulders. I made matching adjustments to the 3/4 circle skirt pattern piece.
So, I now have personalised pattern pieces for the basic bodice. I am also left utterly inspired to continue making clothes for myself – and I’m also feeling a desire to spend a bit more time and consideration making items that will last.
At the end of the workshop I had an almost finished dress! I only had the hem to be done.
After letting the dress hang on my dress form for 2 days I measured and trimmed the hem. Originally I was thinking of doing a small machine stitched hem (as demonstrated by Gertie at the worksop) but this cotton sateen has a little bit of stretch to it, and I was concerned that the hem would end up a bit wavy, so I opted to hand stitch the hem using a technique described in her book with some hemming lace.
The lace I had was pale pink, but I still used black thread, because the base colour of my fabric is black. I tried to keep my stitching as neat as possible, because I know that although it is on the inside of the skirt, I know that it is there! So, I ironed up the hem, and used an easing stitch near the raw edge to pull the fabric flat. I hand stitched the lace to the upturned hem, stretching the lace just a little as I went, this allowed the lace to sit nicely and cover the raw edge of the fabric. Then I hand stitched the top of the lace to the skirt, making sure to catch only a single thread of the skirt each time. If you look very closely you can see a faint dimple on the right side of the fabric, but none of the black thread is showing through on the lemons or greenery, so I’m pretty happy with how this hem turned out.
I wore this dress for Mother’s Day and because it fits so well, it was so comfortable. I really like the length too – I usually go for either just-above-the-knee of maxi length, this is probably closest to tea length and I really like it. I feel very feminine, yet its not completely impractical – I can get up the stairs without needing to lift the skirt so that I don’t trip over it. It also has a bit of twirl factor!
I did need to add a cardigan, because although it was sunny, it was still quite icy.
My husband was especially complimentary of this dress, and said that I need to make many more – so that’s a licence to go and buy fabric right?
…on that note – for most of this year, the concept of a capsule wardrobe has occupied my sewing thoughts. Wearing this dress has changed my mind about quite a few things, and I’m feeling that I would like to take a new direction with this dress as the starting point. I think I would like to construct a capsule based on dresses. A capsule wardrobe of dresses?
Thanks for reading!