a frou frou wedding gown, part trois

It’s done! So really this should be be the ‘finis’ post, but since I can’t share photos of the beautiful bride in her gown until after Saturday’s wedding, there will be one more post to complete the story!

When all was said and done, I think it was the tulle that was finally the death of me…

So. Much. Tulle.

There had to be something like 12 or 13 layers, some went all the way around, some stopped at the sides, and some were only the back. Yikes! Fortunately one of the bridesmaids is an amazing seamstress herself so I advised bringing scissors, just in case any is STILL peaking out when the gown is bustled.

From earlier testing - the 3 point bustle

Most of the alterations took about as long as I expected, except for bustling. I had planned on a three or five point bustle based on the seam locations and the back pleating detail of the dress, but do to the insanely full skirt and back sweep of the gown, we finally ended with a seven point bustle. The last two were added while Vicky and her girls were here and luckily they were patient!

After a few ‘dancing’ tests to be sure everything was at the right level, the finished gown was re-packed and the happy bride took it to be stored at her parents until the wedding on Saturday.

In looking back at the amount of time I worked on this, I’d probably say it was a total of 12 hours, plus a bit more time for fittings. (Since the fittings were also some seriously high quality friend time… it’s hard to count that accurately!)

Considering this was a relatively simple set of adjustments (take in the bust fullness 1/2″, hem and bustle)… well you can see why alterations are such a costly part of the wedding attire budget! I’m so glad I was able to do this for Vicky, and now I seriously can’t wait to see her in all her bride-y glory at the wedding!

Yay! Congratulations to Matt & Victoria!


a frou frou wedding gown, part deux

Thanks to this year’s bout with bronchitis, it’s been another long weekend more or less spent at home in bed. Fortunately I had already planned to take some time off so getting back to Vicky’s wedding gown wouldn’t be a problem. Now to just find the energy!

She was last here about two weeks ago and the dress fit beautifully! I did mark the bust to be taken in ever so slightly by hand – just to soften the sharp angle from the bust point to the top edge. The embroidery was pinned back in place and rearranged to be more as symmetrical as possible. We also marked the hem, which took some doing! Again, thanks to beautiful construction… it’s a bit of bear to alter.

So, catching up… here’s what’s been done since the last fitting:

  • Take in bust fullness very slightly, satin only
  • Whipstitch all the loose edges of the embroidery to the bodice
  • Bar tacks added to either side of bust seam below top edge (to keep lining from rolling)
  • Skirt/underlining and skirt lining trimmed for new hem lengths
  • Skirt hem facing stitched right side to skirt/underlining
  • Understitch skirt hem facing close to seam
  • Fold hem facing to inside and pin to organza interlining

And what still needs to be done? Here’s the very short list to be done tomorrow morning:

  • Whipstitch the bodice lining to skirt lining at waist (30 min)
  • Catchstitch the hem facing to the organza skirt underlining (60 min
  • Hem skirt lining with horsehair braid to stiffen (15 min)
  • Trim tulle petticoat layers (15 min)
  • Add blue grosgrain ties & loops for bustling (15 min)
  • Tack strapless bra to gown at sides (15 min)
  • Steam dress (30 min)

So about 3 hours left of gown altering to do and then it’s ready to leave. Good thing too since the wedding is Saturday! Now, I wonder if need a different dress to wear to the wedding myself…

a great white driving coat and hat

And the costuming begins again! The Historical Society will shortly be celebrating its 100th anniversary and as a result of the new obsession with all things 1911, I started a sewing club to focus on making some reproduction clothing. We’ll use the clothing/costumes for events and a grand-scale fashion show.  This is advance planning in a big way… I’m hoping by the time April 2011 rolls around we’ll have a slew of costumes already made and fitted to particular individuals – all ready to wear out on the town for old-fashioned picnics, outdoor dances, and Easter Parade and the works!

Big picture aside, I haven’t taken much time for drafting patterns from the scale diagrams in Waugh or Janet Arnold. So I cheated and perused the Simplicity pattern catalog while they were having a 99-cent pattern sale a few weeks ago. And voila! The fabulous driving coats and hats pattern that includes all sizes for all garments featured on the cover. Doesn’t get much better!

It did take until yesterday to pick up some fabric – a really nice creamy white cotton twill from Joann’s that has some drape but still enough body to work for a coat. And they had a the perfect 3/8″ soutache braid in sand color that will allow me to more or less duplicate the coat as pictured. (Apparently I’m not feeling creative at all… I do think if I make the men’s coat down the road, it will be more of a pale grey color. Isn’t that more practical?)

Matching thread was all I really needed since I had all the notions and extra supplies to make both the coat and hat. Well, except for buttons. But I haven’t gone through the stash yet to see what options might be there!

At tonight’s sewing club meeting (which was a blast despite having a cold & sore throat, thanks to the great company!) I managed to get all the pattern pieces traced to the fabric for the coat and hat. The coat body sleeve pieces were all lengthened about 3/4.”  Obviously not an exact science as I was just adding a touch more length to be on the safe side.

Since there are so many sizes available, I wanted to preserve the original pieces. Having no tracing paper, I just manipulated the pattern on the fabric and traced everything out with light pencil marks. This is a fun costume-y coat rather than a strict historical project, so I don’t mind the lax attitude this time around!

All told it took about 2 hours to get the pattern traced and cut out. Clearly this could have been done more quickly but I had fun with the group while I took my time and it’s now ready to sew, so I’m happy ;o)

Total so far is about $40. I have a receipt around here somewhere…

a bachelorette party ensemble

Hmm… I have a dress to wear to the wedding, but of course the bachelorette party happens first! In fact, we’ll be headed out on the town on Saturday evening, less than two days away. Eek.

After the success of the grey wedding guest dress, I’m itching to make something new… and something fun at that! So the hunt begins. I’m looking on instyle.com and through various pattern reviews, plus my own pattern & fabric stash. Nothing is jumping out at me although random ideas keep popping in and out my head. So far here are the contenders, in no particular order:

  1. Strapless black/red/grey plaid dress from my closet, with black tights, suede heels and a new fitted black sateen jacket. Or maybe velvet. Or velveteen. But definitely something I could wear with jeans after this weekend. Potential problem: Can I get a jacket made overnight?
  2. Make a new dress from New Look 6912 pattern (the grey wedding guest dress) but with the sleeveless, one-shouldered option, possibly shortening the skirt a tad more.  And in a fabulous evening type of fabric inspired by the stunning eggplant colored gown worn by Gwyneth Paltrow. Potential problems – A: When would I wear it again? B: Will I freeze to death wearing it on Saturday? C:  What shoes would I wear?
  3. Jeans, Boots (love my boots), Badgley Mischka jacket, a new halter or empire waist sleeveless top that hits mid-hip. Scarf with the sleeveless option. Possibly New Look 6893 for the top. Potential problems: Is this fun enough for a bachelorette party?

Clearly this isn’t going to get decided tonight. A trip to look at patterns, fabrics and possibly a detour to T.J. Maxx Runway is definitely in order. Aww shucks. What a shame!

a grey wedding guest dress, finis

I was smiling more before work. This is my post-lecture exhausted look... and yet, the dress still rocks!

Last stitches in, photos taken and it’s time to call another project done! (Okay, okay… I may need to touch up the hem a bit, but we’ll see what happens overnight!)

This project went surprisingly smooth considered I never worked on it with ideal space, lighting and even a table for the sewing machine and iron. My biggest worry along the way is that I couldn’t move my arms enough due to both a tight armsyce and a bit of pull across the bodice fronts. However, after clipping around the armscye seam, nearly all of the tension was relieved. It is still on the high and tight side, but it’s now only awkward getting in and out of the dress, and not while wearing it, even with the sleeve lining stitched in place.

Some notes on construction & pattern changes:

  • Bodice pieces and waistband were cut to a size 14 with no changes. Skirt pieces were cut to size 16 and the top 2″ or so were tapered slightly on each piece so they would meet the size 14 waistband when joined together.
  • Bodice front was lined in self fabric, eliminating the need to hem the top edge
  • Bodice back neckline was faced in self fabric that had been interfaced. A full bodice back lining was also cut, slipped beneath the facing and hand-stitched in place.
  • The waistband was also interfaced… note to self: do not skip this step – it made all the difference!
  • 3/4 length sleeves were shortened an additional 1 1/2″. The original length is just awkward and bunchy. Now the sleeves are just below elbow length. I’d probably experiment with above-elbow length next time which would likely require shortening another 3″.
  • Sleeve hems were turned up about 1 1/4″, lining were cut a bit shorter and turned up 1/2″ before being hand stitched in place at the hem and at the armsyce.
  • I forgot to lengthen the torso anywhere – so I just ended up attaching the waistband with 3/8″ seams to add a total 1/2″ in torso length. This seemed to do the trick, although the tied band is now a tad narrower than the waistband at the side seams.
  • Skirt was about as basic as it gets! Each side of the center back kick pleat is fully lined and then lapped and tacked in place inside.
  • Self lined bodice was worked as one layer when adding bust gathers and attaching to waistband. This made it a bit tricky putting in a side seam zipper – a few extra stitches needed to be ripped out so that zipper ended up between the correct layers. Although it would break up the back line (which really is very pretty) I’d be tempted to convert this to a back zipper if I made another lined version.

Hips. Ugh. But the dress is still pretty!

Altogether, this probably took about 6 hours, maybe a bit more since I was generally distracted while working on it. I used a bit under 2 1/2 yards of 60″ suiting fabric and less than 2 yards of grey synthetic lining. Matching thread, invisible zipper, some handstitching in silk thread. Interfacing was Pellon Ultra Weft.  Cost… no more than $15, including pattern.

I plan on wearing the dress to tonight’s lecture at work, and possibly to work itself, so I’ll be able to test the stability of the hem and general wearability of the dress. However, if the quick try-on (even with pins sticking me in my arms and legs) is any indication – this could be an absolute go-to pattern. I love the neckline and the sleeve possibilities are pretty wide. I can also see converting this to a fuller skirt below the waistband.

The one issue I have is whether or not I should try adding some additional ease for my larger than B-cup figure. The bias drape of the front bodice works for this one, even with a lining, but I wonder if I should play with that on the next version. And yes, there will be a next version!

EDIT: **Wore it tonight… not a single problem or fitting issue. Score one for the sick girl sewing in bed!**

a grey wedding guest dress

All the necessities: machine, iron, laptop, cutting, pincushion, pattern, fabric... and of course extra pillows and a fuzzy blanket!

No, Vicky’s wedding dress isn’t done yet… but I have made some headway in a dress for me to wear to the wedding. After being sick with a cold all weekend, I finally had a burst of energy on Sunday night. Since the sewing machine and iron were already in the bedroom, I decided to see how far I could get in making a gown while still saying in bed.

Frighteningly enough… one can get pretty far!

I did ask Tom to bring up the old cardboard cutting board and used that on the bed to cut out the dress pieces. I had found New Look 6912 on my last trip to Joann’s and really liked the draped neckline, plus the fitted torso. I went with the waist ties and the 3/4 length sleeves – and as usual, I also planned to fully line the dress.

I love the neckline. End of story.

In several hours of working on it last night, while staying in bed and watching random movies on Hulu – I managed to get the entire gown constructed – minus sleeves, lining and invisible side zipper.  I was really liking how it fit and how it looked hanging up against the wall.

Fast forward to this evening… and I managed to get the lining cut out & sewn, plus the zipper installed and sleeves added. Now, I haven’t clipped or pressed the armsyce – but I’m just not as crazy about it as I thought I’d be. I’m now rethinking sleeves.  Except that it looks really good on the hanger. Hmmm. Perhaps I’ll wait and look at the photos again tomorrow on a larger screen.

A few things learned while sewing in bed:

  • Use a pin cushion. Containers can spill and pins in bed doesn’t make anyone happy.
  • A bolt of muslin makes a great ironing board.
  • The machine may sound really loud but really no one else in the house can hear it.
  • Bad movies make it easier to focus on sewing.
  • Cats are not helpful to the sewing process. No matter how much they also enjoy being on the bed.

And lastly… a few notes about the dress until I get pictures loaded. The pattern details are above. The fabric… well, it’s sort of a heathered green-grey, more on the grey side in a polyester (blech!) spring suiting that I snagged at Joann’s for a whopping $1.50/yd. Yep – under $4 for the dress fabric. I don’t remember exactly how much the lining and notions cost – but I do remember that my entire bill was about $27 and that included the dress & lining fabrics, thread, zipper, extra zipper/thread for the little black dress, and the latest Threads magazine. Not bad eh?

Now to try it on again in the morning to decide the fate of the sleeves… and possibly the dress!