Wednesday, April 22, 2015

My daughter's vintage inspired prom dress

Being a unique girl, my daughter didn't want just any prom dress. The dresses you find at the store just don't suit her body type or taste. So, one day, she perused the internet for prom dresses and found the Vintage Gal on tumbler. The site was full of 1950's party dresses. She found a few she liked, but eventually settled on this one.



Finding the fabric was easier than expected. I was in our local fabric store, Mill End, again, shopping for something else when the perfect fabric was just sitting there at the front counter. It was if someone had known and made sure it was out for me to see it. I texted a photo of it right away to my daughter and asked her if she liked it for her dress. She said, "YES!!!"

From there, I had to search for a pattern. There are some new patterns available that have a similar look, but have straps and other adjustments would need to be made. I was prepared to do that if needed. As it was, it looked like I would end up needing to since the vintage patterns that I found for sale were costing anywhere from $65 to $125.
Before buying a pattern, I received an email from Unique Vintage advertising their swim and dress sale. I went to their site to simply look what was on sale. That is when I noticed that they have a prom dress section. Not expecting to find anything, I looked through their selection and ended up finding the Black Taffeta Party Dress. I was thinking of asking them if they could sell me the pattern to the dress when I saw that they offered it in ivory and it was on sale for $25!

What a find! I ordered it straight away and it arrived quickly. When I did receive it, I tried it on my daughter to check the fit. She was in between sizes, so I ordered up, but should have ordered down a size. No biggie, though, since I planned to tear it apart anyways.
Here you can see the folds of fabric in
the bodice and how the ruffles are different
from the original

Net fabric draped over dress to get an
idea of what it will look like

Destruction begins
I started with the bodice ruffles. The original has black edged net ruffles. I tried several different ways to achieve the look, but failed. So, I took the excess net that I trimmed off of the bottom of the overlay fabric, folded it over the ruffles that I removed from the Unique Vintage dress, and used a zig zag stitch to trim the edge in black.

I stitched four rows of ruffles, straight across the top of the bodice. Then, I took the folded fabric from the bodice, ironed it smooth, and put the net overlay on it and attached it to the bodice. From there, I lined up the net overlay on the back panels of the bodice, and, removing the zipper, attached the net to the bodice. Then, reattached the zipper and the front and back bodice panels together.
Now that the difficult part was over, I simply needed to cut the net overlay and some tulle that I placed between the net and dress, gather it all together and attach it to the skirt at the waist and zipper. Zippers are a challenge for me, so this did take some time. Once the dress was all together, I tacked the ruffles down so you couldn't see between the rows, and added the bit of lace and ribbon trim.
 All the tulle!!
This was such a fun project to do and it made me happy to see how happy my daughter was with it. She looked and felt like a Princess, which is so not like her. She isn't much of a girly girl, but you wouldn't know that by the way she wore this dress to her prom.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Downton Abbey - Lady Mary's purple striped dress

In the first season of Downton Abbey, Lady Mary Crawley wears a simple purple striped dress in two episodes; first, during their annual flower show on episode 5 and then, during a garden party when they first get word that the UK is at war with Germany in episode 7.

When I first saw the dress, I thought to myself "Oh, how lovely and simple, yet intriguing due to the variation of the stripes throughout." Anyone who knows me, knows that I have a love/hate relationship towards working with striped fabric. They are a pain to work with, but the satisfaction of making a garment where they line up beautifully brings a sense of accomplishment.

I did not originally set out to make this dress, I sort of happened upon it. I was at our local fabric store, Mill End Fabrics in Carson City, when I saw the bolt of fabric and thought "Lady Mary's picnic dress!"

 Simple polished cotton purple and ivory striped fabric
Since I found the perfect fabric, I could hardly ignore the calling to make the dress. So, I set out to draw the design and search for patterns. I was unable to find anything remotely similar to the bodice, however, I found a few patterns that could work for the skirt of the dress. For years, I thought that I had to find the perfect pattern and stick to it. I have since learned that if the pattern has about the right shape, it can be manipulated to work. So, I didn't set out to look for a whole dress pattern. I looked for separates to sew together to make the dress.

Not having any formal dress making training, when I couldn't find a pattern to work for the bodice, I was nervous when I set out to draft one. I sketched an idea of what the pattern might look like and used my dress form for the measurements. I looked at many different angles of this dress to see all the different directions of the stripes and where the seams of the dress are. I determined that the only seams on the bodice were at the center back, side seams from waist to sleeve cuff, and the side front seams. I measured where I thought the neckline would be at the front and back to the waist, then across the waist at front and back, then from the shoulder down for the sleeve. The following is what I came up with on my first attempt.

As you can see, I was a bit off for the seam that connects the front to the back. No problem. Back to the drawing board.

I simply taped the first draft onto a new piece of paper and made my adjustments. Now that I had the shape of the pattern close enough, it was time to figure out how the dressmaker of the original got the stripes to go all those different directions on one pattern piece. First, I drew the stripes going the different directions seen on the original onto the pattern that I drafted.

Then, I cut the pattern at the shoulder to make the stripes of the fabric line up with the stripes on the pattern. I honestly do not have a clue what I was doing at this point. I was doing a lot of guessing and feeling a bit discouraged, but I kept trying.

After two or three tries, I got the bodice fairly close to the original.
Here you can see the stripes going in all the right directions
Next, to tackle the skirt. I chose to go with Wearing History's Cordelia Skirt pattern
Since it is a single seam skirt, I had to make adjustments for it to work with this project. From what I could see in the images, Lady Mary's dress has a center back seam and two side front seams. I should have done some measurements before cutting out the skirt, but I easily fixed where I went wrong. Knowing that I would be adding seams, I cut the skirt one size larger that I would have if I were not adding seams. I guessed that the center front seams would rest where the patterns darts were, so that is where I cut. I ended up needing to cut a new center panel to match the original, so my dress actually has a total of five seams, instead of three.
Here, I am drawing the side front seam from the dart

The dress nearly finished
 To put the dress together, I used a strip of complimenting plumb purple fabric and stitched the bodice along one edge and the skirt along the other. The opening should have been at the front side seam. However, I had already finished the opening before I realized that I needed to cut a new panel in the skirt. So, the opening is at the side back seam. I simply used the extra fabric along the lower edge of the bodice to fold under and tack in place to finish the inside waist.
At this point, all that was left was some minor adjustments and to add the lace. Sadly, when the lace collar and trim arrived, it was much too small.
It appears to have been made for a child's dress
So, I decided to cut it at the shoulder to make it fit, planning to fill in the gap
I needed to double the trim to make it wide enough and it
 happened to be the same as what the collar was made from
Again, having no clue what I was doing, I set out to fix the collar to make it fit.
Pinned in place so I could work off of the existing pieces
I followed the flow of the original;
 took me about 3 hours to fill in both sides
Overall, I am very please how it turned out. I found a straw hat at the thrift store for $1 that was just about the correct shape and bought some nice hat netting at Mill End and silk flowers at Michael's craft store to decorate it with, using Lady Mary's hat as inspiration. I spent the afternoon with my daughter and friends from the Great Basin Costume Society at our Annual Titanic Tea, which happened to fall on my birthday.
My daughter and I