Hi! So you may have noticed that there hasn’t been a lot of sewing happening on the blog lately. I do apologize for that. Because in all honesty, there has actually been a lot of sewing happening lately in the background. But I couldn’t really share it with you until now. So here’s a little post about my latest project as it came to life.
Here is the inspiration:
Now you might be wondering, why not just buy the dress on the right? It’s not that expensive, is it? Here’s where I bring up our old friend, Expectation vs. Reality (see images below). The reality is that the BHLDN Agata swing dress is actually ugly as s**t. Those sleeves are just… Seriously? And that giant bow? I just threw up a little in my mouth. This is why sewing skills come in handy! Also, how short is that dress?
Expectation vs. Reality:
One of the hardest things about creating this dress was finding an appropriate lace. I was getting swatches from the UK which were beautiful laces and free… but not quite right. I found a store in Australia that had a wonderful selection but in order to get a swatch, I had to order 1/4 of a metre which came out to be nearly $50. On a lace that might not be right and won’t be enough to really be usable for something else. Nope.
Then I finally remembered a NZ fabric distributor, Charles Parsons. They happen to carry a range of bridal fabrics and luckily for me, one happened to be the perfect Guipure lace. They sent me a free swatch which I decided was “the one”. The lace was a slightly lighter colour than I maybe would have hoped. I tried dyeing the swatch which did work, but considering the cost of the lace, I didn’t want to make any mistakes (my dyeing skills are a little rusty these days). So instead I decided to line it with a darker nudey-pink colour silk to really bring out the pattern and make the lace pop.
Yes, I ended up lining the dress in silk which is possibly crazy considering no one really sees the lining anyways – they’re going to be looking at the lace! But being a textiles nerd, there is no way I was making a 100% polyester dress. All the silk came from Fantastic Fabrics who do have a really fantastic selection of silk solids.
So with the real fabrics all ordered, and test fabrics ordered (I wanted to make a test dress in nearly identical fabrics to test construction methods – mainly the seams and zip – as well as fit) I started some trials.
I used McCalls M6505 as a very basic pattern base. By the end, I had made so many alterations (neckline, sleeves, length) that I feel certain the only thing that stayed were the darts… McCalls M6505
Here is iteration #1 – trial using very cheap black guipure lace from aliexpress:
Ok, not as hugely successful as I had hoped. Also, I had hoped that I would end up with a really cute black dress. Unfortunately, now I have a 75% completed black guipure lace dress that doesn’t fit that well, is kind of frumpy/saggy on me, and I need to re-cut the entire back shoulder which means I have to rip out the sleeves and the neckline… *sigh* Can I be bothered? This has yet to be seen.
After I made this something of an atrocity, I went back and re-adjusted my pattern, did another very quick mock-up in a cheap acetate lining just to assess fit, tried it on, and decided to make a few more small fit changes before the final version (as at this point I was seriously running out of time).
Here is iteration #3 – the final version – I started cutting it all out on about Nov 9 after I got back from my conference in the USA… giving me all of 4 weeks to complete the dress before I needed to wear it. No pressure or anything:
Luckily, I was diagnosed with DVT on Nov 12 or so, meaning I couldn’t really do any walking or exercise, tramping or any of the usual activities that may take up my time. Leaving plenty of time for sewing.
So after looking at these photos I’ve come to realize they aren’t amazing, but this is just what happens. You’re too busy actually getting married to have detail shots of your dress.
Ok, we can see here that it is a little roomy in the back, but some of that is ease across the shoulders (so I can move my arms). Also, I didn’t want a skin tight dress [I fully expect to be able to still fit my wedding dress in say 5-10 years time]. And there is a little extra room in the zip but folks, I sewed that thing in by hand, then by machine, then by hand again. And the side seams are french seams. There was just no straightforward way to take it in that extra little bit. I also enjoy telling myself from the back the dress has “that quaint hand-crafted look”.
Anyways, I was reasonably pleased with the outcome considering I actually sewed the final dress in 4 weeks. Possibly a new record for a wedding dress (ok, given it is a short dress and pretty simple but it is 3 layers and 2 of those layers are silk, 1 was satin and the other was georgette so not exactly the easiest fabrics to work with)? Also, yes, I matched all the print on the lace. And wore orange heels.