Tag Archives: dress

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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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!

Finished object: the skull and roses dress

11 Oct

My skull and roses dress makes me happy. It brings together three of my favourite loves – 1950s style dresses, rock and roll dancing, and a little bit of subversion! And it is associated with so many happy memories!

Miss La Belle and I both got dolled up in 1950s style for the ball – except Miss La Belle set and styled her own hair and I got mine done! None of the photos show very well the victory rolls I had though, disappointingly

I started learning rock and roll dancing in June 2011 with Feet with Heat, and in September was the annual ball and show. Ooh how I wanted a fancy dress to wear! I wanted to turn up to that party looking as hot as I possibly could.

So I did what all women in such situations do – I agonised over decisions with my dear friend, MrsC of The Hectic Eclectic. We settled quickly on a great pattern, and then MrsC enabled my print addiction introduced me to eQuilter, a fabulous site for craft cottons in amazing prints. After emailing options to each other, I eventually ended up surfing the site with her on her couch before buying four different subversive and funky prints to choose from when they arrived. (For what it’s worth, I have never had any problems making beautifully handling dresses from craft cottons.)

While I anxiously waited for my fabric to arrive, I made a mock-up of the bodice. MrsC, being both a dear friend and my colleague (before she quit to open a craft haven) pinned me into it in the ladies’ room at the office. I went through three versions of the bodice before I was happy. At the time we were under the opinion that I am quite broad across the back so MrsC suggested cutting the back one size larger than the front. But I ended up having the make the back significantly narrower and move the strap placement a lot further towards centre back, as well as deepening the front darts to increase the fit under the bust. Thank goodness for mock-ups! (We’re now contemplating the opinion that I am regular through the back but broad through the shoulders. I have to figure out properly how this impacts my fitting.)

Fuzzy, grainy, low-light picture of me and the dress in action at the ball. The polka dots on the edge are Miss La Belle also getting some dance floor time.

Finally the fabric arrived from its long and arduous trip across the globe. On the Monday before the Saturday night ball. EEEEK! There was no way to get it made. For a start, I’m not a very competent sewer (yet) so tend to take my time. Secondly, I had several nights of classes that week to make sure I was as dance-fit as possible for my first night out social dancing. I didn’t want to give up the dance classes to make a dress to wear to the event that the dance classes were for! So I settled on my back-up plan, a regular dress out of my wardrobe.

But I have EXCELLENT taste in friends! MrsC, upon seeing my dilemma, did the most awesomest thing in the whole world. She offered to make the dress for me! She took the fabric home on Monday night, along with my carefully re-drafted pattern, and came back in the following day with a bodice. We had to make some additional tweaks to the darts, but the overall placement and height was right so that was not a big deal. Finally, on Friday, a mostly-complete dress came to work. All I had to do was put in the invisible zip into the side seam (MrsC not being a fan of them) , finish the shoulder seams and the contrast band with a bit of slip stitching, tack the bodice lining down, and hem the sucker. So I got to work on Friday night and worked solidly through Saturday. At 2pm I was pressing the last of it, just in time to race into town for my vintage hair-up appointment. (I have yet to master the art of victory rolls or other snazzy looks!)

I made it to the hair appointment just on time, got back home with just enough time to meet up with the lovely Miss La Belle and slap on my makeup and false eyelashes, pull on my petticoat (another MrsC wonder), and arrive at the ball fashionably late – just in time for dinner to be served.

Cropped from another terrible photo of the dozen of us still going at 1am when the venue tossed us out. It’s a terrible photo but look! I have a cleavage!

The dress performed amazingly well that night, fitting me perfectly and comfortably and most importantly swirling wonderfully! I love that it gave me a subtle improvement in my normally lacklustre cleavage! And I especially love that several people had to do a double take when they realised that there were cute wee skulls and crossbones peeking out from behind the roses. Hehe.

From the retro cheesecake pin-up shoot, used courtesy Toya of Digitalpix

Unfortunately I have very few photos from the ball, and as you can tell, none of them are very good! But there are plenty of it in action at my first rock and roll competition. But I was lucky enough to be invited by another dear friend, Sadie von Scrumptious of Ever So Scrumptious to participate in a retro-kitchen-cheesecake-pin-up photo session early this year, along with the amazing Miss La Belle and the fabulous Winnie Chester, with pictures taken by the extraordinary Toya of Digitalpix. As explained, I have a history of avoiding cameras, so I decided last year to take that on by getting as many pictures taken of me as I can, and learning to like them. I’m succeeding in getting more photos of me taken, but only slowly progressing towards liking them. A natural model I am not! But it was wonderful fun and I am so grateful to this fabulous collection of women to have them in my life and to get to participate in this day and have these pictures to commemorate.

Cheeky! It’s amazing what mischief one gets up to with Miss La Belle’s encouraging voice in the background! Image used courtesy Digitalpix

Vital statistics…

Vogue 2902

Pattern: Vogue 2902
Year:2006
Fabric: Alesander Henry craft cotton from eQuilter – bought especially for this project and used straight away, shock horror!
Notions: invisible zip
Made: September 2011
Techniques used: inserting an invisible zip into a side seam
Time to complete: for me, not much. Thanks MrsC! Even so, there’d be a few hours in the mock-ups and the hem. So much hem.
What I learned: I have awesome friends. I still don’t know how my back and shoulders affect fit. The internet is great when it comes to things like putting an invisible zip into a side seam. How to put an invisible zip into a side seam.
Wearable? It was my go to dress for rock and roll events, until this year’s ball and this year’s dress. I haven’t figured out how to wear it socially/casually without feeling a bit weird. I intend to fix this.
Likeability: Love it. Love it.
Unsolicited comments: frequently. And I won best dressed at a dancing competition in it too!