Time after time, I learn that the only way to really motivate myself into sewing is to light a fire under my bum. I don’t really do lazy sewing and I’m a pretty pragmatic about my approach. If I have an event, it makes sense to try make a new dress, but that reality does not always eventuate. What happens more often than not is that I will procrastinate until the night before and then there will be a mad dash of sewing in which there is a 50-50 chance I will complete a new outfit by the time I need to have a new outfit.
I tried to plan this one, I tried. What actually happened was months of planning followed by a mad dash in the days leading up to Christmas (and hemming the morning-of!) where I barely got the dress finished.
I found this gorgeous fabric at Spotlight in their Christmas section (50% off!) and couldn’t resist the symmetrical plaid. I love plaid but a lot of it is unbalanced and hard to design around. Or at least if you design around it, you can only really do it along one axis. For this dress, I knew I wanted to create something that took advantage of the perfectly square pattern.
That’s when this design was born! Inspired directly by a dress from the 50s I found on my Pinteresting travels many moons ago, I drafted a pattern with a centre-front along the diagonal and the top of the bodice along the straight grain. As a result, the front of this bodice is on-grain where I need the support the most (along the neckline) and on bias where the stretch is most useful (leaving room for all the cake I was preparing to eat on Christmas day). It hugs my curves beautifully and I have to admit, I’m totally in love with it. This might just be my favourite dress pattern I’ve done so far and I can’t wait to make another one.
The process itself was quite laborious, and I made a lot of muslins. What was really important was keeping that dart/fold at exactly 45 degrees, to match the pattern, and building the rest of the bodice around that. The first draft, I forgot about contouring ease, so that was a spectacular failure. The pleat on the front of the bodice gaped, it was too tight under the arms, too loose around the waist–it was truly embarrassing. Each draft got better and better, and I was using my plaid muslin fabric to practice pattern matching, so by the time I got to my final version, I was a plaid-matching savant.
So the final result, with the perfectly-matched centre-front seam, made me feel so deliriously happy. I even had to piece the skirt together from 3 panels because it was 12cm too short for the repeating plaid around the waist and though it felt like it took forever, I matched all those seams so precisely that you’d be hard-pressed to find where the seams are.
I put a pocket in, which was a disaster. I did it for all the wrong reasons as well. Among other popular and silly sewing memes (“Touch my fabric scissors and die!!”) is the “Thanks, it has pockets!” meme. I don’t subscribe to sewing memes. I cut my pattern paper with my fabric scissors. Fight me. I also don’t believe that pockets belong in every single dress. I put pockets in a lot of them because there are sometimes times when I will be without purse, but.. I have some pretty cute bags, and I like carrying them. I don’t show them off on this blog a lot, but my current favourite purse is shaped like a Frenchie dog. I mean, come on! As if I would put things in my pockets when I have the opportunity to wear that as a handbag! I also find it tugs the skirt in weird directions so you have to plan for that, like a waist stay and whatnot–more work.
Don’t get me wrong, pockets are still pretty good (I don’t want to be lynched by the sewing community over a misunderstanding about my feelings about pockets). I just don’t think every dress needs them. And this dress does not need them.
Anyways, I don’t know where I was going with that.
As I get older, I’m starting to see more value in putting effort into family events, so I’m hoping to make the handmade Christmas dress an annual tradition until I have a closet full of festive dresses I never get the opportunity to wear anywhere else. I’m thinking about doing the same with Easter dresses, if for no reason other than I really like bunnies and I see no problem in owning a closet full of bunny dresses.
I also really enjoyed the challenge of designing something new from scratch. There’s something so.. unwhimsical about modern sewing patterns nowadays. Even designers who are praised for having vintage styles are just releasing more iterations of the 2-dart basic bodice, and making the same dress over and over again with different necklines or sleeve options can get boring. I see pattern designing on the cards for me some time in the future; it’s a pretty big dream of mine to release some crazy fun dress designs to the world. It might be a total flop. Maybe I’m crazy and people want another iteration of the 2-dart bodice. But I feel the market is sorely underrepresented in the intermediate-advanced category and it’s something I’ve been thinking about for quite a while now.
Anyways, that’s enough of my pipe dreams. We will see what the future brings. One thing is for sure, I’m not going to stop designing my own dresses, it’s way too much fun! So look out, 2019–Let’s get busy!