My latest sewing project is having a bit of an identity crisis. It’s a bit too short to be called a dress, but a bit too long to be called a top. In spite of this, I have to call it something to blog about it. So, I’m going to call it a dress. In fact, to be specific, it’s a Little White Dress (LWD), my second one, a trend in my sewing that’s bit surprising since white is definitely not my color.
Blame it on Amal Clooney. I would not have attempted this dress if it wasn’t for her. Not only is she a brilliant attorney with a enviable last name, look how well she wears Dolce and Gabbana.
Here’s another great example. The lace detailing accentuates the shape of the dress and makes it pop. Yet, the dress doesn’t look too fussy or girly.
Inspired, I decided to attempt a knock off.
I used New Look 6209, a sculpted sheath with contrasting side panels and yoke. When I saw the photo on the front of the pattern envelope, I wondered if you could achieve the same sort of contrast with lace appliqué. I also liked the unusual sleeves, with the pleated sleeve caps.
Part of the charm of the Dolce and Gabbana dress for me, was that the lace was appliquéd over tweed. So, I used a stable Ponte knit of light gray for the dress, thinly striped with black. (purchased at Fabric Depot.)
I cut the dress out of the Ponte first, then sewed the front to the side panels and the yoke (also cut from lace). Once the front was assembled, I measured the length of each side panel seam to determine how much lace I’d need for the contrast.
That’s when I realized just how complex this task would be! The lace had to be placed just so along the side panel’s seams, or it would draw attention, (maybe even exaggerate!!!) the parts of my body that just didn’t need it.
To avoid that, I had to figure out exactly where to stick that lace, if you get my drift.
First, I tried to pin the lace on the front of the dress while I stood in front of a mirror. Let’s just say, that was a Very Bad Idea and leave it at that.
After a bit of trial and error, I decided to pin the dress front to my dress form (seems so obvious now!) and adjust the lace placement until it was right. Then, I hand basted the lace to the fabric.
Now for the crafty bit.
I used my trusty Bernina to appliqué the lace on, tracing each of the curvy edges with stitches. At first, the patience required for this was a bit out of my wheel house. Not only that, but I realized a wrong move would mean that I’d have to rip out a lot of stitches (not my favorite way to spend an afternoon.) Panic!
But as we all know, “Do or do not. There is no try.”
I forced myself to persevere. Not only was it a Growth Moment, but I had way too much money invested in lace and fabric to give up the ship.
The appliqué stitching took a long, long time. Two old movies later though, it was done! The day brightened! I went on to finish that dress.
Oh, one other thing. I added a bit of lace on the bottom of the sleeves too, a six inch swath of lace sewn on to the bottom of the sleeve as a cuff.
The pattern was easy to assemble with very little adjusting. But when it was completed, I wasn’t sure I liked this dress, wasn’t sure lace was my thing. But after spending SO much time on it, I had to take it out for a spin. At a dressy evening event, it was kept up with the best of the LBD’s, so I’ll probably wear it again.
Have you tried to recreate a designer look? I’d love to hear about your ‘knock off’ efforts.
During one of my recent jaunts into the enticing, instantly gratifying world of ready-to-wear, I heard a discussion through a thin dressing room wall (which is not really eavesdropping, right?). “You absolutely cannot wear that,” one woman said to another. “It’s a peplum and they are a fashion NO!”
When I shop for fabric during the Spring and Summer, I’m always drawn to the colorful prints. I have a hard time giving in to their allure though, because when I wear them, I feel too sweet.
I must be watching too many Mad Men reruns, because this week, I found myself crafting my very own shift dress!
Pretty good company, if I had to say. It’s a timeless shape and the look is easily modified with a belt, or a bit of bling. The look became popular in the sixties when Audrey Hepburn wore a black one designed by Givenchy in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
This week, I made my own shift dress out of a woven fabric, a chambray that looks like light-weight denim, purchased at Fabric Depot.
I used Vogue 8840 as the base of my design, a pattern for a drop-shoulder tunic with sleeves. I lengthened the pattern, then embellished it with pockets with buttons, and cuffs on the sleeves.
I self drafted the pockets by cutting seven-inch squares. I added flaps that by free cutting four triangles from the fabric, then faced them by sewing them together. I added the buttons after the fact because I thought the pockets looked boring without them.
The double top stitching came to me after shopping ready to wear. I tried on a similar dress and noticed how the stitching seemed to make the details stand out. Top stitching is mindless, but satisfying, don’t you think? And it’s a easy to do while you watch old movies, a huge plus as far as I’m concerned!
After all, Audrey Hepburn belted hers! And who doesn’t want to be like her?
What about you? Do you like the shift dress look? Who do you think did it better? The girls in the sixties, or us? Do you have a favorite shift dress pattern?
These days, the weather is so unpredictable! Some days, the sun will shine so bright you’ll reach for your sunglasses, only to rip them off a moment later because they sky is dark and it’s decided to rain. In the morning, the temperature can be as low as forty; in the afternoon, close to seventy. Such changes make it impossible to decide what to wear in the morning. That’s why spring means layers! I love a good layering piece.
My new favorite is McCall’s 6991, a loose fitting bias top with a mock wrap. It’s a casual, roomy option that allows you to wear a tee or a tank underneath, making it a transition piece that will work as well for Spring as for Summer.
I chose view B and used a remnant of lightweight rayon that looks like denim (my favorite color for Spring) that I found at Fabric Depot. The pattern is easy with a self-lined yoke, a narrow machine-stitched hem and a mock wrap front. Because the cut is loose, this top required very little fitting and was completed in an afternoon.
- Choosing a lightweight woven was key to the drape of the mock wrap. Also, because of the way the mock wrap is constructed, the wrong side of the fabric shows, so you need to use a fabric that looks the same on both sides.
- As you read the instructions, you need to know which is the right and wrong side of your fabric or it will not make sense. I found this difficult because my fabric looked the same on both sides. So, to keep confusion to a minimum, I marked the fabric’s right side with tailor’s chalk. It brushed right off when I was done with the project.
This top is fun to sew and I LOVE the instant gratification that comes with an easy, fast project. But now that I’ve completed something unstructured, I’m craving a challenge. For my next project, maybe I’ll try a more complicated pattern, something tailored like a cotton or linen shirt or a jacket. That’s the way it works for me. I sew something easy as a warm up for a more involved project. What about you?
Rumor has it that the Little White Dress has replaced the Little Black Dress for Spring. It’s a trend that’s been highlighted by both Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar magazines, and Nordstrom’s blog recently announced that we can wear white ANYWHERE.
Although I’m not usually tempted by trends, this was one I couldn’t resist. Why? Because I found the Perfect Fabric of course, a quilted knit in winter white, stitched with a diamond pattern.
You know how it goes. You see a fabric, you fall in love and, voila’! Things happen.
To make this casual dress, I made some modifications to a basic pattern from Vogue, 8840, a tunic top with dropped shoulders, a round neckline, and a front and back center seam. The center seams make shoulder adjustments easy for my pathetically narrow shoulders (sigh).
Because the fabric had a bit of stretch, I cut the pattern a size smaller than usual to account for the built-in ease of a knit. I also cut a border of six inches to attach to the hem to make the tunic dress length.
To achieve the bell shaped look of the sleeves, I added what is essentially a six inch border to the short sleeved version of the tunic, narrowing the border where it attaches to the sleeve, widening it at the bottom.
The knit had more stretch than expected so, I tailored the fit just a little by taking in the side seams by another 5/8 inch to keep the dress from resembling a large, white sack.
After trying it on, I decided the lines of the dress needed to show more, so I added a bit of contrast with strips of left over sweater knit, with a loose weave that unraveled when the edges were unfinished. So, I cut four 1 inch strips of that, and used it to trim the center seams, the pockets and the hem border. Then, I purposely frayed the edges of the sweater knit to give the dress a bit more of an edge, which it sorely needed.
I think I’ll wear this dress as it’s comfortable. Not only that but it works with a favorite pair of boots. As the weather improves, I’ll accessorize with sandals instead.
What about you? Do you believe the LWD is a look that’s here to stay? Do you like to use the raw edges of fabric when you create?