Finished object: the flame dress (or, things MrsC tells me to do)

12 Nov

I was going to write about some regular projects first, but at MrsC’s request I’m sharing my most recent make, my flame dress. I’m worried I’m peaking early, but what MrsC wants, MrsC gets. So here is this year’s dress for the Feet With Heat ball.

Posing at the ball. Photo courtesy Julian Thomson.

After last year’s skull and roses dress, I wanted this year’s dress to be suitably subversive and in your face. Subtlety is so over rated – for me at least. Despite my pledge to sew from stash, I decided that I had Nothing To Wear and hit up my old trusty eQuilter. I started my search by looking for Alexander Henry designs. It wasn’t long before I found a fabric covered in hot rod flames, fell instantly in love with it, and knew this was it.

Showing off the skirt before I left for the ball, and getting a good eyeful of the hot rod flames. Unfortunately the photo is lousy. This is what happens when it suddenly occurs to you to get a photo so you give your boyfriend your phone just before you walk out the door and don’t pay any attention to where you are standing. The things blogging is making me learn!

Next was picking a pattern. MrsC demanded suggested I try Sewaholic’s Cambie, thinking that its pear-shaped block and the way the sleeves attach to the back might help with my fitting issues. Despite a dislike of gathers, I duly ordered it (along with Minoru), thinking I could always do flat sleeves, and waited for everything to arrive.

The dress in action out on the dance floor

I had already decided that the super busy print would work well with a contrast black bodice with flames flickering up from the skirt, so while I waited I bought a black cotton sateen with a hint of spandex ( I may accidentally have bought much more than I needed for this dress, just in case, and also some in white and some in pink, because you know, I could.) I also used the wait to start making my bodice toile out of an old sheet. Not one to let circumstances, like no longer working together, get in my way, I hauled my completed bodice into to MrsC’s shop so she could, in her role as my fitting minion mentor, pin and draw my alterations on. Not quite the same the ladies’ loo at our old work but still effective.

We had to significantly deepen the darts, raise the waist seam at the back a good inch or more, and redraw the side seam as on me it was wildly angled. I have yet to figure out if I needed to raise the back waist seam because I have a short upper back compared to my front, or if I’m just full busted enough to make the front of the bodice rise up in comparison. Things to think about in future. For now I just do as MrsC tells me.

Another action shot, showing a bit of thigh this time! I branched out this ball and wore a full circle petticoat with high waisted knickers and no slip, which is what competitive dancers wear, but I did feel a bit odd showing so much leg! And knickers! Photo courtesy Julian Thomas.

I made another bodice toile and again trotted into the shop for review. I’d always intended on replacing Cambie’s gathered skirt with a full circle skirt, but after seeing version 2 of the bodice, MrsC suggested I ditch the waistband as well and put the skirt straight on the bodice. I of course did exactly this.

With MrsC’s approval of the bodice, I set about making it out the black sateen. The Cambie bodice is a great construction method and comes together really quickly. I even kept the gathers! Again at MrsC’s suggestion I used cotton tape to strengthen the sweetheart neckline. I actually ended up constructing part of the bodice in her shop during a social gathering MrsC hosted there. Nothing like wandering around a shop after hours getting people to pin you in and out of your clothes while eating cupcakes and gossiping! Of course, the danger of this is that I also left with several metres of artificial horsehair braid and a promise to put it in my hem. That woman has the gift of the barrow.

And another shot from the floor. I love the way the flames are so vibrant when they move. Photo courtesy Julian Thomas.

The skirt was actually cut out by a friend of mine, The Sewphist. Ism renowned for my carefully organised stash, and The Sewphist had offered to sew for me if I organised for her. Knowing the weekend I’d put aside for my skirt sewing was the last chance I had to help her out for a while, I suggested we trade that weekend. Because of the directional print combined with the narrow craft cotton width, each half circle has been pieced, with a small section on each corner added on. The Sewphist did a great job of matching prints as best she could with the meterage I had available (something I hadn’t taken into account when ordering) and she finished cutting with only 10cm of fabric remaining. Perfect.

After she made up and attached the skirt, I took the dress home and put in the invisible zip. Normally I’m very proud of my invisible zips but I will admit that the zip in this is NOT my best work. I didn’t pay enough attention at the time or I would have seen that I hadn’t stitched close enough to the teeth, but luckily the black on black is disguising anyway. Still, every time I see the zip I get annoyed at myself.

Sick of action shots yet? This is the last one. I’m finally getting good at maintaining eye contact with my dance partner, but J here is particularly fun to make eyes at. As you can tell from this photo! Photo courtesy Julian Thomas.

The Friday night before the ball, after the skirt had been hanging all week, my good friend Sarah came over to help me appliqué flames to myself. I decided it was better to position them with the dress on so I stood and gave artistic criticism while she shoved her hands in my bodice to best position flames over my boobs. She also positioned my flames on my back as well.

My punk flatmate, who also dances, was also called in for artistic opinion, which somehow transformed into an eleventh hour idea to dress him up to match. Sarah cut a couple of extra appliques and tacked them onto his shirt while I vliesofix-ed and hand stitched it all in place.

Me and my flatmate at the dance, showing off our matching outfits.

And a shot of the matching appliques on our backs.

And a close-up of our matching hair! I rubbed the red colouring into just the tips of Punk Flatmate’s bleached hair and it gave it a vibrant orange warmth that perfectly matched my orange and yellow flowers.

The Saturday was much like last year’s Saturday – getting my hair done in victory rolls (by a professional – I still suck) and hemming my skirt. Where it differed was using the horsehair for the first time, and helping my flatmate bleach out his green hair stripe and then dye the tips of it red so that it matched the flame outfits. He’s totally awesome and we looked… hot… together. Sorry, couldn’t resist!

A 1am self portrait of my hair and feather eyelashes before I dismantled it for bed.

The night was totally awesome and I had a great time dancing up a storm! The dress has since been worn to a Grease Sing-a-long at The Embassy, the cinema that is about to host the world premiere of The Hobbit. While there my studio-mates and I danced before the movie as ambient entertainment, and we taught the hand jive at intermission. I wanted to wear it to a burlesque ball the following night but couldn’t get it dry in time.

Punk Flatmate and I playing for the cameras.

Most people’s favourite photo of the night. I had to ask the photographer what we were doing as I couldn’t place it. He reminded me… that I’d asked Punk Flatmate to shorten my bra strap as it kept sliding off while I danced!

And my favourite photo of the night, Punk Flatmate and I posing together.

I love wearing this dress but it does leave me with two dilemmas. First, how often does an opportunity to wear a flame embellished dress come along? I don’t want to let this languish. And second, how on earth do I choose a fabric next year that could top this!!! Ideas welcome!

29 Responses to “Finished object: the flame dress (or, things MrsC tells me to do)”

  1. Kat H November 13, 2012 at 12:55 am #

    That dress is freakin’ awesome!!! Love it!!!! And I adore that the two of you had matching outfits, that’s just fabulous. 🙂

    Personally, I think you should wear the dress anywhere. Why do you need an excuse? Flame dress + black cardi (or red, or white, or….) = work outfit! Yes indeed.

    • missjoiedevivre November 13, 2012 at 1:43 am #

      You’re right, excuses be damned! (Although I might still be pushing it to wear it to work. They’re a conservative lot around here.) Alright, new personal challenge – wear crazy dress to the park or supermarket and act normal 🙂

  2. Juliet November 13, 2012 at 7:37 am #

    Guy Fawkes. I know it’s already been and gone, but you HAVE to wear this for Guy Fawkes next year! This dress is fabulous, and you look like you had the best time!

    • missjoiedevivre November 13, 2012 at 7:43 am #

      That’s an awesome idea! It’s a deal for next year 🙂

  3. Cation Designs November 13, 2012 at 10:54 pm #

    Goodness gracious, great ball of fire! 😀 This dress is totally awesome. I would wear it out and about in a heartbeat! I love the flames that you added to the top, and with your eyelashes and flatmate to accessorize with, that is a seriously winning outfit. Great make!!

    • missjoiedevivre November 14, 2012 at 3:38 am #

      Wow, thanks for stopping by and saying so! From someone who I admire so much that means a lot to me 🙂 You know, if you’d wear it out and about then so shall I! (And really, Wellington is the kind of city that wouldn’t even blink at that.) Thanks for the kind words and inpsiration.

  4. leafprobably November 14, 2012 at 12:45 am #

    You know what?your makeup is awesome (feathery eyelashes ahh!) and I’m totally jealous about how well you pull off the RED lipstick look. I am a bit scared of lipstick, because I’m convinced I’ll look stupid because I have sort of small lips but I do love the bold red look! Maybe I should give it another go 🙂

    • missjoiedevivre November 14, 2012 at 3:36 am #

      Try it! Red lipstick is so much fun. I still am only limiting myself to fancy events but a friend of mine wears hers to go to the markets or around time and every time I see her I think how great it looks, so I’ll try wearing it casually if you try for a special event 🙂

  5. MrsC November 14, 2012 at 8:07 pm #

    Love this dress, it is so very YOU. Next year however, leds and mechanical butterflies may be necessary to up the ante… 😉

  6. lloubb November 15, 2012 at 7:08 am #

    What a rad Cambie!!

  7. Roobeedoo November 15, 2012 at 1:14 pm #

    OMG you’ll have to scrape my jaw off the floor! STUNNING is too mild a word for that dress, that look – those eyelashes, the matching flat-mate, the legs, the everything!
    Just WOW!

    • missjoiedevivre November 15, 2012 at 9:19 pm #

      Aww shucks, you’re making me blush! Really! And coming from you that really means a lot, thanks 🙂

  8. Scruffy Badger November 17, 2012 at 1:06 pm #

    It’s official, Mrs C knows her stuff! This is possibly the most amazing dress I have ever seen! I am stunned beyond jaw drops! And with the flames on eyes & in partner’s hair, matching outfits & petticoats galore, I think you would convince me to take up dancing just to be able to dress like you! Pheweee! What glam fun!

    • missjoiedevivre November 18, 2012 at 1:49 am #

      Wow, thanks so much for your warm comments! Again, coming from someone I admire so much this really means a lot to me 🙂 I’m very lucky to have MrsC looking out for me and I honestly can’t recommend dancing enough!

      • Scruffy Badger November 21, 2012 at 7:55 pm #

        You sweetie! I hope you don’t mind if I show one of your pics & link to this post as it links with a Mrs C theme & I wanted to toot your horn here for this fab dress

      • missjoiedevivre November 21, 2012 at 9:34 pm #

        Mind? I’m speechless with shocked delight! That is a great honour, thankyou! And I know EXACTLY what MrsC theme this will be about… 🙂

  9. Zoe November 20, 2012 at 9:37 pm #

    OMG!!! You look AMAZING! That’s such an awesome dress and your whole styling is fabulous. Looks like you had a super fun night xxx

    • missjoiedevivre November 21, 2012 at 9:45 am #

      Gosh wow, thanks so much! That is so exciting to hear coming from someone whose blog I enjoy so much. Thanks heaps 🙂

  10. tania@sewitanyway November 21, 2012 at 11:14 pm #

    Stunning dress!!

  11. Tanit-Isis November 22, 2012 at 4:06 am #

    OK, I am SO late but this is SO TOTALLY AWESOME. Awesome awesome awesome. I especially love the flame appliques on the bodice.

    Dammit, now I want one.

    • missjoiedevivre November 22, 2012 at 7:50 am #

      Thanks so much! You know, we’re on opposite sides of the world, it’s unlikely we’ll ever run into each other at parties (sadly) so you could just ahead and make one… 🙂

  12. prttynpnk November 22, 2012 at 1:11 pm #

    Oh, you are a treasure of inspiration! I love your dresses!!

    • missjoiedevivre November 22, 2012 at 6:26 pm #

      Wow, thankyou very much! I certainly never saw myself as on the giving side of inspiration, what a generous compliment 🙂

  13. Neeno - Sew Me Love November 27, 2012 at 10:57 pm #

    Those action shots are awesome! You’re on fire 😉


  1. Another Renfrew plus PJs and vintage blinds - November 21, 2012

    […] think you & the lovely lady herself, Miss Joie De Vivre deserve some plaudits here for AWESOME dress creation of the year – blogged at CharmofMagpies.  Catch a look at this people & say you’ve seen one like this […]

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