a little black dress, part quatre

This is the dress that never ends! Except… just maybe the end is now in sight!

After months of languishing on a hanger on the back of a door, it’s been rescued and progress has been made. Since the bodice had been sewn to the skirt with any pressing, I opted to take out that seam, press and trim all the seams to 3/4″ or so, and then sew the bodice back to the skirt.  This actually took several attempts – or at least touch-ups – as I tried to exactly match all the seams and pleats… but as with every other step on this dress, it turned out to be worth the effort.

After pressing the waist seam,  I got to work catch-stitching most of the interior seam. It may be a while before I add a lining so I wanted to make it wearable in the interim! This step was slow going but easy… most of it got finished while watching a movie on Hulu. (The Relic… if you must know. There’s something about cheesy sci-fi monster movies that I love!)

Moving on, with most of the seams taken care of, I followed the directions to staystitch and then press the neck and armhole seam allowances to the inside, then clip curves, then press again. With a deep V-neck in front and back this didn’t work perfectly but it certainly helped. All those edges got the catchstitch treatment, too.

Switching to Peter Benchley’s The Creature in the background (yeah, I know, extra cheesy monster) I went ahead and inserted the zipper using a lapped application, stitched by hand. Since I had been having trouble getting the dress on and off, I moved the zipper higher up the side to give more of an opening at the bust. I was mostly winging it… but luckily it did the trick.

A quick try on of the dress… and eek… a tad bit tight around the hips. I’ll try it with spanx tomorrow and hope for the best! If all goes well, the only remaining steps are fixing one of the side pleats and hemming. It may actually get worn tomorrow…

Well, I’ll also need a lint brush and a fresh pressing ;o) Silly cat loves being near when I sew lately!

Oh – and if I never say anything further about this dress… the neckline is so spectacular. Strapless bra required – but wow, will the effect be stunning. I’m already trying to think how I can use it other ways…

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a little black dress, part trois

A not-so-great photo of my matched seams – horizontal seam is the waist. Above is the front bodice dart and below are two of the front skirt darts.

Four uninterrupted hours of sewing… how’s that for a lovely Saturday? I was invited to join one of the guild’s other neighborhood gatherings today, so I packed a small box with miscellaneous unfinished projects, put it in the car with the machine and away I went.  The little black dress had been sitting in a pile since whenever in January I put it aside so it went in the box! Once I started to unpack turned out that was the only complete project I managed to get in there. Duh!

Anyway…  during my time today, in addition to some lovely conversation, I finished basting the entire dress together and then moved on to actual sewing the seams on the machine. Wow… only 15 or so hours later and four pieces of fabric are starting to look like a dress! All joking aside, it’s been interesting constructing a gown using such painstaking methods. One of the more tedious steps was matching the seams and darts between the bodice and the skirt. Of six points, I think I was perfect on two, darn close on two, and not so close on two. I will definitely red0 the last two… the darn close ones are still up for debate. I haven’t yet pressed the seams – I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the mis-matched points miraculously re-align with steam & pressure ;o)

Better picture and better matching - too bad it's the back!

The other minimally fun step? Taking out all the basting stitches! Keep in mind that every seam and dart has three rows of basting stitches which have now been sewn through with the machine stitching. Tweezers would have been helpful and the seam ripper was invaluable! That step alone took about 3 of the 4 hours I was working on it today. Taking out any kind of stitches will never be my favorite step!!!

The tally so far:

  • Muslin fitting ~ 4 hours
  • Prepping underlining & lining – 4.5 hours
  • Constructing dress & removing basting stitches – 5 hours

Still to be done:

  • Perfect matched seams
  • Turn seam allowances to inside and tack down
  • Zipper
  • Lining
  • Hem

I need to stop making lists…. looks so much worse that way!

a little black dress, part deux

Well, unsurprisingly to me, I haven’t gotten much further on the dress. But I have managed to both take some pictures of the journey and get them downloaded on my computer. That’s a small little success right there!

My starfish-shaped bodice. They had themselves some serious darts in the 1950s!

Our most recent class chat was Sunday evening, two nights ago.  As I had a busy day and not much time to get ahead with sewing before the chat, I put the laptop nearby and continued to alternate basting pieces and typing for an hour. I was able to get the entire bodice hand-basted together just before our chat came to an end… and lo and behold… the darn thing actually fit pretty well.

A few notes while they are still relatively fresh in my mind:

  • It took about one hour to baste the entire bodice together. This includes side seams, shoulder seams and six bodice darts.
  • I need to continuously remind myself that this is a 1950s vintage pattern. It was meant to wear over 1950s lingerie (aka bullet bras) which I do not currently wear. (Nor do I plan to… but that’s a whole other topic.)
  • It’s a fine line between getting a good high bust point and maintaining the vintage look while still being able to wear the dress comfortably over modern skivvies.
  • The bodice will be comfortably snug when finished, especially with the lining layer thrown in there. However, I always find that linen relaxes on the body so I’m keeping that in mind relative to the ease of the finished dress. We’ll see how the cotton batiste underlining effects that…
  • It’s going to take some really delicate yet manipulative pressing to get the bust just right. But if I’m patient and take some time on it it will be worth the effort.
  • Lastly… keep the orange and white cat away from the little black dress pieces. A single cat hair is too much.

I will baste the skirt darts and side seams next but won’t bother trying those on. The muslin from the waist down has been just ducky so far. Once all the basting is done, it’s time to whip the whole thing together on the machine and starting turning all those seam allowances to the inside. And add a zipper. Here’s hoping it’s as quick as it sounds in the directions….

a little black dress

Not surprisingly, I’m juggling several projects, but the one currently getting the most attention is my little black dress made of linen. I’m taking Susan Khalje’s online class through Pattern Review and am both learning a ton and having way more fun with the meticulous steps than I had expected. The pattern I chose is Vintage Vogue (reprint) 1137. The finished dress will be 100% black linen from Joann’s, underlined with black cotton batiste (because I had 4 yards just sitting around). Lining is yet to be determined.

The muslin fitting stage was the most tedious so far – primarily because I had to alter a single front bodice piece to fit 3 cup sizes larger than the pattern, using only one vertical dart and one horizontal dart on each half. So… five muslin bodice fronts later, I was finally happy with the result. Not ecstatic-jumping-for-joy-happy but more of a subdued yeah-this-will-work-happy. And while part of me wishes I had kept track of the hours that went into that portion of the project, let’s just say it’s probably better not knowing!

Earlier this evening I had some time to work on the next few steps – namely marking the seam lines on the underlining, cutting out the underlining and the linen, and then basting each piece to it’s underlining along the seam lines. I can report that all of that took roughly 4.5 hours. I’m pretty sure the basting took about 1.5 hours of that… but I wasn’t paying attention when I started the first piece.

The gory details of the steps… along with photos are up next. Oh, and basting the pieces together to see if my yeah-this-will-work muslin did the trick after all!