Remember the dress code dilemma I had back in early April? Well, I figured it out after some pondering and questioning.
The event was my Grandma’s funeral. As per Grandpa, the dress code was…
"Dress to impress. Grandma never liked black"
Grandpa said nothing black or somber looking cause Grandma never liked black. Her wardrobe is full of colourful floral and handmade knitwear. Her choice of accessories were always a single string of pearls, a pair of earrings, maybe a scarf, but never without a brooch.
In honour of my Grandma, I asked Grandpa if I could borrow one of her brooches for my outfit, and he said “Go ahead, I found a box full of them under her bed. Think it’s only part of her collection.”
With only a week till the big party, it was time to pick the pattern, buy fabric, and sew.
Back to the dress code talk. My interpretation of funeral-appropriate is to keep things covered; minimum exposure of the arms, legs, and chest. Colour siding to black in favour of bold colour/prints. I’m sure I can get away with a black and white print (Grandpa is wearing his dark chocolate pinstripe suit).
The pattern I had in mind was Simplicity New Look 6000. 2 years ago, I made view A (with the pleated front) in a printed satin. The dress was a straight 12 but it was stretching across the waist and hip. Quick revisit to the size chart shows I need to grade up to 14 on the waist and hip. Better to have it fit than cheat myself on a size.
Dad reminded me that “If you put effort into a garment, make sure the fabric is worth it”. This cues for a trip to Gala Fabric.
We found a printed silk with a black/white pattern. A quick drape in front of the mirror and it looked very ‘me’. Black silk lining to go with the dress and I was $150 out the door. I know $150 can buy me a dress off the rack but I won’t love it as much as something me-made.
For the cuffs and collar, I was drawn by L’Wren Scott’s Headmistress dress. The cuffs and collar are sewn in white to contrast the black dress. A quick Photoshop mock-up helped visualize what my dress would look like. Black works much better for my print. The additional black fabric was purchased as a cut piece from Fabricana, a large piece enough for future collar details.
The pattern calls for 4 buttons (one pair per cuff). Think the shell buttons in my stash would work nicely. For the collar detail, I’m gonna pin a brooch there instead of using a large button.
Construction and Alternations
In addition to my dress, I also made a blouse for Mom. Time was not by my side and it was tough putting myself into `sewing mood`.
Sewing 2 Dresses
I always wear a slip dress underneath my first 6000 dress but I found myself constantly fidgeting to keep all the layers in place. This time I lined the dress by sewing a View E (darts instead of pleats) sans cuffs. With the lining, the dress hugs more closely and actually stays put. To attach the lining, I followed Sewaholic’s Cambie lining instructions (easy and simple method).
The collar is cut on the bias and is suppose to ‘stand’ on the neckline. I made a muslim collar to see how it stands. On me, the collar is BIG. The piece covers too much neck and looks top-heavy. Since it is a folded piece, I took out 2″ away from the folded edge to make a ‘new fold’. This way the neckline seam is kept intact. I also ironed on a small square of interface on the corner of the top piece to give more support for pinning a brooch. The narrow collar looked much better on me after the adjustment.
Sewing into the wee hours of the morning, day of, and 4 hours before heading out the door…I was tackling the cuffs. Note to self: Don’t try out something new in a time crunch. Following the pattern instructions to sew the cuff was a nightmare. WHY did they choose to sew the cuffs on the right side of the sleeve so it will turn outwards and have the seam exposed!! Then they teach you to hide the exposed seam by closing the cuff with the 2 cuff buttons. I tried it out as per instructions and it looked like whoever wrote it had no sample in front of him/her and was winging it 3 minutes before deadline.
Ideally, the seam would be on the inside sandwiched between the outer dress, lining dress, and cuff piece. I was frustrated with the instructions and fatigued with the lack of sleep all week.
Finishing the Dress
Waking up from a quick nap and I was ready to tackle the cuffs and hem. Except Dad was sitting on the machine finishing the cuffs. Mom asked Dad to help out with the dress while I took a quick nap. Can’t thank my parents enough for helping me out with the dress. He sewed the cuffs like I thought they should be. Will note down the revisions later.
I’m happy with how the dress wore. The collar and cuff were a plus to an otherwise simple sheath dress. The pleats gave the dress more dimension than if it were darts. The print is appropriate for many occasions. The downside I had was the length, though it is just above my knees, the dress tends to ride up when I sit. Even with hosiery underneath, it felt too much skin was shown. Good thing I had my Cordova jacket to cover up.
I paired the dress with a pair of purple Mini Bunny Fluevogs, the pair on the right. Yes, purple shoes!! Girl needs to wear some colour and walk without fear of having the heels dig into the grass while supporting her 91 year old Grandpa. (Though I doubt anyone noticed my shoes)
Next time I work on this pattern, I will definitely…
- Revise construction of the cuffs
- Try other collar variations