Tag Archives: Cambie

FO and MOS 2/52: Best-friend’s-wedding dress

10 Mar

No, I didn’t make a wedding dress for my best friend. That would be my best-friend’s wedding-dress. See how important punctuation is?

What I did make was the dress I wore to my best friend’s wedding, which is scary enough anyway. And I was her maid of honour. Way to raise the stakes there!

You want some photos of the wedding right? Everyone likes wedding photos. Apart from the people who don’t. You know who you are.

Casual shot on a cell phone after the ceremony. Yep, I had purple leopard sunnies. It was bright!

Casual shot on a cell phone after the ceremony. Yep, I had purple leopard sunnies. It was bright! You’d think there’d be lots of photos – it was a wedding afterall – but most of the unofficial snaps are of the brides and we’re still waiting for the official snaps to come back that will have a bit more of me!

What a privilege to be the maid of honour at my best friend's wedding. KT is on the right and her lovely new wife is on the left

What a privilege to be the maid of honour at my best friend’s wedding. KT is on the right and her lovely new wife is on the left

Enough about weddings, what about the dress?

Luckily, my only criterion as maid of honour was to wear purple. It could be any fabric, any style, even any shade of purple so long as I turned up in purple. You’d think this would make life easy, seeing as how I have a stash out the wazoo, but did I have a length of purple fabric suitable for such a dress? NO. So off shopping I went. Now, I can’t walk into a fabric shop without falling over a squillion bolts of fabric I adore. But going looking for something specific is hard work! There was pretty much nothing out there in a beautiful, proper purple. Not purply pink, not fuchsia, not magenta, but a rich violet or iris purple. But a I did eventually buy a beautiful tissue weight dark purple silk with big black polka dots and matched it with a pretty pattern I already had (Plan A). But when I got it home, and added up the amount of time I had to make this, with the giant spectre of Christmas Holiday in the middle, I decided that faffing around with slippery silk was officially A Disaster Waiting To Happen. Nope, it had to be cotton.

Just finished, no makeup or shoes, pleased as punch with the fit of the bodice (not so pleased with dart points)

Just finished, straight off the machine onto the body, no makeup or shoes! Pleased as punch with the fit of the bodice (although not so pleased with the dart points)

After more hunting, I finally I slunk into Spotlight and found a plain purple basic cotton. I packed the fabric and my shortlist of patterns to take with me on holiday to ponder. See, being someone who likes blindingly bright colours and prints (along with gothic black outfits, but that is for another post) I kind of worried the fabric was, well, blah, and I was agonising over what to make. I thought about making it into something svelte and slinky to up the oomph factor, but I wasn’t sure how well a basic cotton would make up slinky. So I thought about blinging it up somehow, and had thoughts of piping and studs and lace and whatnot in my head and even bought a bunch of black piping. Finally I settled on a pattern that I thought would do it justice, princess seamed with a bit of flare at the knee and a nice seam detail that might suit piping (Plan B).

But I knew I’d need to muslin, I was worried about it not being the right pattern, would I look good at the wedding, etc. As I prevaricated and panicked, time slipped through my fingers and eventually I abandoned the untested pattern and decided to make something that I knew would fit me – a Frankencambie, made from the redrafted pattern that resulted after several rounds of mock-ups for my flame dress. I also decided to skip all the possible embellishments to make sure it was made in time.

Story-to-make-you-laugh-at-me-number-one. I had problems with cutting out. My modified Cambie bodice pieces are sans seam allowance and I stuffed up the cutting twice. The first time was because my new piece was upside down so I didn’t see my written reminder to add allowances. But what was stupid was the second time I stuffed up. I was cutting a second bodice front for the lining. I had the first bodice front still pinned to the paper to use as a guide for the seam allowance. Which I successfully did on three sides – and then, on the last, I cut against my paper piece, promptly chopping the seam allowance off both shell and lining! Grrr.

Once I’d cut another two bodice fronts, making it was pretty easy so soon after having made the flame dress so I’m not going to dwell on it, apart to note that I’m not overly happy with my dart points. Oh well, nothing’s perfect.

Story-to-make-you-laugh-at-me-number-two. While on holiday a local petticoat retailer had a sale. I have lots of fabric to make petticoats, with the idea being to dye each one a different colour, but there was a purple petticoat that was an exceptional price and it was a colour I didn’t already have made up, so I impulse-bought it. I had NO idea what I was going to wear it with when I bought it. I had no purple clothes! A couple of weeks after buying the petticoat I went to Made on Marion to buy a zip and thread for my dress. My good friend Busty La Belle worked there part-time and was on duty so I had a wee chat with her. She asked me if I’d seen the sale and I said, “yep, I bought a purple petticoat. NO idea what I’m going to wear it with. It’s a pretty colour, let’s see, about the colour of… say… this zip I’m holding. That I’m putting into a full circle skirted dress. Huh. I suppose I could wear the petticoat with the dress I’m making.” Yep, I had bought a purple petticoat at the same time I was making a purple dress and did not connect the two events in my head. My only defence was at the time I bought the petticoat I was still on Plan B, a completely non-petticoat compatible concept.

Story-to-make-you-laugh-at-me-number-three. Once the zip was set in and the lining was in, but before inserting the sleeves into the front neck, it was the first chance I had to test the fit, and the bodice fit like a glove! I ran out of the house to show my Mechanic Man. Of course, Mechanic Man had a customer over, poring over a bike in the workshop. This didn’t stop me from barrelling up to both of them, sleeves fluttering behind me, tips of the sweetheart falling forward to show flashes of bra, squealing “IT FITS!!!!!” Mechanic Man was suitably complimentary. Customer was surprisingly sweet about the half-crazed partly-dressed woman cackling with glee.

So yep, it fits. And I wore it (with the petticoat) at my best friend’s wedding. And I got a few compliments too. I also wore it to the wonderful Wellington blogger’s meet up.

A photo from the bloggers' meet-up. Photo courtesy Nikki.

A photo from the bloggers’ meet-up. Photo courtesy Nikki.

Also from the bloggers' meet-up. Thanks Nikki!

Also from the bloggers’ meet-up. Thanks Nikki!

Couldn't resist playing with some of the crowns at the Coronation cafe.

Couldn’t resist playing with some of the crowns at the Coronation Cafe.

BUT I’m not sure I love it. I love this colour. I love sweetheart necklines. I love circle skirts. My only ever reservation about the Cambie was the gathered shoulders (as generally I dislike gathers) but I even like that in the black of my flame dress. But together, I feel that these features and this colour come across as too sweet and young somehow. I bit too… well… 1980s bridesmaidsy!

Is it just me?

And if not, what can I do to fix it?

One of the ideas I had originally had was studs. I found some small dainty star shaped studs at Made on Marion and thought that a row of little silver studs along the neckline could be a bit different – sweet-meets-a-tiny-bit-punk. I’m keen to give that a go.

Or maybe some turquoise ribbon along the hem? Sequins? Feathers? Or just wear it with a belt to give it a bit more edge? Or just stop being so damn fussy and wear the damn dress?

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The flame dress – fancy photo shoot

23 Nov

Wow, thanks to everyone for the fantastic comments on my last post! Considering that I’ve only just recently started posting, and sporadically at that, I didn’t really expect anyone other than my close personal friends to ever actually read it let alone comment. But then all the bloggerati showed up and said amazing things! And then the lovely Scruffy Badger went and mentioned it on her blog! Oh my goodness! It’s all a bit much to believe really. I came over positively faint. Really. So thank you everyone for your comments and kindness and for giving me the taste of the warm glow that comes from interacting with the blogging community. What awesome people.

I hope you don’t mind if I carry on with the theme. I thought of including these in the last post but decided that this story, and Sarah in particular, deserved its own separate bit of space.

As I’ve said before, I decided in my teens that I HATED being photographed and would happily spend the rest of my life avoiding cameras. And I succeeded in this for the next decade. Then something strange happened. Firstly, I decided that I wanted to have a few more photographic records of things as I realised that a decade with virtually no visual history was actually kind of sad. Secondly, I decided to confront a bunch of my fears and uncertainties head on and decided to include photos in that. Both of these meant making friends with cameras.

A professional photo shoot in 2010 broke my habit of running in terror when I see a camera lens pointed at me, meaning I started showing up in candid shots from social gatherings. But I still feel pretty awkward being photographed.

I got lucky and met Sarah shortly after my professional shoot. Sarah is amazing. As well as being kind, smart, and witty, she sews without fear, creates beautiful things, and is a very passionate and talented photographer to boot. And she’s actually a real astrophysicist or something like that. Sarah is the delightful friend who pinned flame appliques to my bodice, and then late at night tacked flames onto my flatmate’s shirt just because. She blogs her photos too.

Sarah quickly became the photography lynch pin in my amazing circle of friends (about to get their very own post) and between her camera and the amazing costumes my friends create there has been more than one photographed dress-up day.

I’ve found these awkward but have done my best to learn to get comfortable around the camera and Sarah has been great, letting me screen photos before she posted them. Sarah is keen to improve her portraiture, and I’m keen to progress from no longer being uncomfortable to actually being photogenic, so we decided between us to get together and practice. Photos from some of these shoots will show up soon!

Recently Sarah decided to hire a photography studio for an afternoon and get a lesson in using fancy-pants studio lighting. And she asked me to be her practice model for the day. And she asked me to wear the flame dress.

And she produced some amazing photos.

Trying to be ladylike

Is it just me or does this look like an old-fashioned school photo?

Trying to show off the skirt

A bit of leg

Playing with movement

I twirled so many times to capture it in a photo that I got dizzy

Rosie the riveter inspired

As well as these, Sarah took some arty photos of me in various costumes out of our mutual curiosity to play and experiment. This is one of my favourites.

I love how she created such amazing lighting, especially for her first time playing with fancy lights! Might be a bit of a naughty shot but it was all about skin and light and learning 🙂

She also kindly took some family shots of me with my mum and her partner, who were staying with me at the time. I don’t think there are many photos of me and my mum together, which is a shame as we are so close. I won’t share them as I don’t think Mum would approve!

Really, I can’t say thanks enough to Sarah for her time, her generosity, and her friendship. And these photos.

Now I’m awfully worried that I’ve set the bar too high and showing you all ordinary clothes in ordinary photos will be somewhat of a let down. I’ll do my best though!

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!