Part two of my “build your dream dress” adventure, where we give up on using a pattern (and flat patternmaking) and drape the damn thing instead.
I had some large, leftover scraps from when I sewed some v-shaped pillowcases from a flat sheet (seriously, v-shaped pillows waste so much fabric), pinned it to my dress form and set to work. Being one of my first attempts at draping a bodice, I lacked that fancy tape for marking style lines so just ended up scribbling all over the sheet with a water-soluble pen. I knew I would encounter problems because the mannequin isn’t 100% my shape or size, but I cross-referenced it afterward with my sloper and it turned out okay!
Because I was not certain that my experiment would work out, I used a very cheap, kind of rough fabric (not quilting-rough, but almost linen-rough?) from Taobao that I didn’t like as much as the screen led me to believe I would, and it turns out that scratchy, thicker quality was actually a pretty good choice for this style. It does have three metres stuffed into the waistband but the skirt holds its shape rather wonderfully, even without the petticoat I’m wearing in these photos.
I used 1.5 metres of fabric for the entire dress and even managed to pattern match the back. That’s incidentally one of the things I love about Taobao, how all the fabric is seemingly in extra wide widths of 150cm instead of the regular 110cm I find in stores. The bodice took up so little fabric that I had a lot leftover for a knee-length skirt. Two widths of fabric later, and I have a big fluffy skirt!
When I eventually start designing my own sewing patterns for home sewers, I’m definitely going to to make economising fabric one of the main goals–fabric is expensive, and modern patterns waste so much space between the damn pieces that you end up throwing out a metre’s equivalent of scrap fabric at the end of your project. Definitely not very sustainable. I usually have a handful of scrap fabric leftover at the end of most of my projects, if that.
Even while trying to be mindful of how much fabric I was using, I managed to line up the back pattern pieces. Again with the annoying invisible zipper teeth showing because of the cheapness of the zip, but throwing them out would be an enormous waste (I bought a silly amount) so I’m likely gonna have to start doing side seam zips. Or stop caring about the zipper teeth showing a little bit when there’s tension on the fabric. At the very least I can thank my lucky stars it’s not the invisible zipper tape showing, which is one of my pet peeves (Kitten D’Amour, anyone?).
Speaking of sustainability, it had just recently occurred to me that most of my pockets are, well, hidden, so if I am not patching pieces of leftover fabric together to get enough for pockets, I have actually started to delve into my fabric scrap bin for a failed muslin and cut pockets out of them instead of using my new cotton voice lining fabric. Doing it this way also has the added bonus of making the pockets ever so slightly more bulky, which further puffs out the shape of the skirt. Win-win!
I’ve definitely become more sustainability-minded as of late. I don’t talk about it a lot, but I’m really worried about the world. Animal species are dying at alarming rates, every year sets new weather records, we’re losing glaciers we’ve had since the last ice age, and the world’s population is growing uncontrollably. Since you’ve seen me last, I’ve even sort of converted to pescetarianism, where I freely eat fish a couple of times a week, but am mostly vegetarian (I can’t give up cheese or milk, and I hate all milk alternatives, even though I’ve tried a dozen different ones–oat milk, btw, so gross). Now I will only eat meat if I am dining out somewhere, because I’m quite fussy and it’s really difficult to find vegetarian foods I will eat when I’m not cooking them myself.
I’m doing this mostly for the environment, but there is definitely a huge added benefit of sparing a few chickens, cows and pigs from a ghastly fate. It’s not as much as I should be doing considering the state of everything, but it’s the best I can personally do right now. It’s a lot easier than I expected, honestly, and I found myself trying new things that I never knew I liked, like teriyaki caramelised onions and zucchini (don’t laugh, I did say I was really fussy). I won’t bore you too much about the details, but sometimes I’ll whinge about it on Twitter, if you REALLY want to live my vege-pesce-tarian struggles.
Anyways, off my soap box, back to the dress.
Notes for next time
- Figure out how to get those corners pointier, the ones that meet the straps. The corners of the bodice are way rounder than the source dress. Without inspecting the source dress (that hasn’t been sold for several years now) again it’s hard to say but I think the piping ends and begins at the points instead of being continuous around the entire neckline. To be fair also I think the straps are thicker.
- The neckline should probably be higher to be closer to the source dress. I have a penchant for styles that reveal some decolletage because it’s one of my favourite features of my body (what does that say about me? I need Jesus, that’s what), but the trade off is that there are less gathers along the neckline. To be fair, I think it also helps that the source dress’ straps are closer together but it is mandatory that I be able to wear a bra with any dress I sew, so that means the straps have to fall where my bra straps do.
- Shorten the length of the bodice. I always seem to have issues with this because my back is shaped like a banana. Seriously. Apparently, a back length (from nape to waist) of 35cm is really, really weird for someone my height (170cm, for those who are curious). But that’s where my waist is at its smallest! So there’s a perpetual confusion about where my waist actually is. Would you believe that I’ve already drafted a dozen dresses and I’m still not sure if my waist height is correct? Looking at these photos, it does appear I need to shave off up to a centimetre. I’ll get it one day. Bodies are complicated.