An Utterly Unnecessary Holiday Outfit

Hellooooooooo!

I hope you are all having a good holiday season so far–this time of year always seems to blow up my schedule and make me stress like it’s my job, so I for one will be glad when it’s over!!

You may remember that last year, I decided to make a fancy-ass dress for my company’s holiday party. The dress code for this party is not black tie, as you may have expected from the nature of my dress. Rather, the only real stipulation is that people are not allowed to wear jeans. Clearly, I require only the flimsiest of pretexts to go full evening wear on my colleagues! Just before last year’s event, Vogue released V9160 in their holiday collection, and I instantly knew that it would be Next Year’s Outfit. It even made my epic Planning Post for this Fall/Winter!

I bought the fabric for this during the first quarter of the year but left any actual work on it until November–bad idea. 2 weeks before my event, it was clear that some major adjustments were needed; it was a slight scramble and I had to compromise my original vision, but I got it finished. All told, the final item is nice and I felt great in it!

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V9160/Sloper Mash-Up!

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From the back! (The back necklines are symmetrical–the lace on the right side ended up with more blank space at the top, which creates the illusion that they aren’t the same. Grrrr.)

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Snow! It was also sleeting when we took these.

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‘Tude

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Note, if you will, the mirror images of the necklines–pretty proud of that one!

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Without the sash, but now with more Derp Face!

Please excuse the skirt, which had been worn the night before to my party and needs to be re-pressed and re-clappered; I ironed out the “Butt, Meet Chair” wrinkles for you, though! (And yes, I did wear that lipstick to my work party! I also wore eye makeup and some jewelry for that event, but wasn’t about to put it back on for a quick photo session. Meh.)

Fabric!

The lace for the bodice was the first thing I found: it was everything I wanted, from color (Eggplant!!) to width (WIDE) to style (double scalloped, no beads, slight metallic thread usage, beautiful cording, and no tulle backing). It’s a Nicole Miller lace and I got it from Gorgeous Fabrics.

Next, I set about finding fabric for the trousers. I chose wool/silk gabardine because it has that sheen for evening, but would be easy to work with because it’s so stable. Mood had the perfect color, but I found a very-slightly-cheaper price at Fashion Fabrics Club, so I ordered from them. This was difficult, because their website uses different names for the colors vs. Mood’s site, and their depiction of colors was much less true-to-life than Mood’s. I ended up having to return the first cut I ordered–at my cost–and re-order another color. I never thought I’d have to say this, but I should have just ordered from Mood! In the end, I got the color I wanted and it really is THE SAME FABRIC that I swatched from Mood, so whatever, lesson learned.

My rayon bemberg for underlining the bodice came from Vogue Fabrics, who I heartily recommend. I ordered a color card first, which was a massively good choice: do that. My one beef with the experience comes down to color depiction on the site (which is soooo bad in the flesh tone section of colors) and the way they stack swatches and staple them down on the card. Once you remove the staple, you’d better not shuffle your swatches around because remembering what color is what will be impossible, especially given their awful color depiction online. Not that I know anything about that…okay, I totally did that. Luckily, I could search for the color names that I *thought* I was considering and find other sites that displayed them better. Once that was done, I settled upon…*drum roll*…Beige. Corpse-y, but it matches my skin well and doesn’t detract from the lace at all.

Pattern!

The bodice of this pattern is truly wonderful: I only needed to do 1 muslin to confirm the fit (I checked the length beforehand and added what was needed). I could probably have taken it in from the bust to the waist but I didn’t want to risk Hulking out of the lace because it was too snug! The sleeve caps are a great fit for the armholes, with hardly any easing required (and this lace takes easing very, very well). They are rather fitted sleeves though, so if you plan to make this pattern, be sure to check that! And one other thing to be aware of is that this bodice’s surplice neckline is rather…booby. Really rather booby. Like, checking-my-tits-every-time-I-move booby. If I was a busty gal, this would probably have required some adjusting on the pattern itself; as it stands, I’ve got more ribs than tits so I left it as-is and opted not to put a snap there or sew it closed. The pattern calls for small shoulder pads, which I omitted; my shoulders, in my opinion, support the garment well enough on their own.

You may have noticed that there is a skirt on this outfit rather than trousers. There were issues with the pants–despite 4 muslins and getting close to a good fit and being fairly sure about what final changes needed to be made, the fashion fabric behaved so much differently than muslin that it rendered the pants unwearable and unsalvageable. :’-( And since this fabric was pricey, I only bought a smidgen more than what I needed per the pattern envelope. To say that I was crushed would be an understatement: I so badly wanted the jumpsuit from the artwork! And the shape of the trousers was so flattering and beautiful, even in muslin. I was so distraught that I took a vintage cocktail dress to a local tailor to have it hemmed, just in case I needed to wear it to my event. (Hey: that skirt was 3 layers of silk chiffon PLUS a lining, and needed to go from Midi to Mini–I wasn’t about to do that shit myself, deadline or not.) Fortunately, I was able to get a pencil skirt out of my remaining yardage and make it work–truly a Christmas miracle! 😀

Said skirt was made from my skirt sloper/moulage than I made in a class with Nina last year. I knew the darts would probably never match with the bodice, so I cut the skirt out with 3″ side seam allowances; from there, I sewed the skirt darts and then pinned the pieces to the bodice to mark where my side seams needed to be sewn to match the bodice AND fit me. Quick and dirty, yes, but it worked! I hemmed the skirt to 18.5″ from waist to hem because I think that is a flattering length on me; I kept about 2″ of hem allowance, which I felt was appropriate for this fabric and the shape of the skirt. The length allowed me to not worry about a vent, either–yay! The hem was sewn invisibly by hand.

Hilariously, *before* I cut out the skirt, I had a hell of a time with the pattern piece for the sash! It is supposed to be cut on the fold, but I had not one lay plan at my disposal that would accommodate that on what was left of my material! So to recap, I had plenty of fabric to cut out an entire emergency skirt, but not to put the sash on the fold. O_O I made it with a center back seam and honestly, I doubt anyone would think less of the dress because of that! The sash itself is not very flattering on me from the back due to my narrow back waist and the straightness of the sash, but I love the effect in the front! It adds that extra element to make the dress look “Finished.” I always prefer a buffer of some sort in dresses with contrasting tops and bottoms with a waist seam, whether it’s a belt or a waistband inset or something like that, so I am glad I went ahead with the sash!

Construction Notes

This pattern is fairly easy to put together–there aren’t very many pieces! But the lace obviously added some work because of how it needed to be underlined. I hand-basted both fronts and backs to their respective underlinings, which was great for getting the bodice put together. But it occurred to me the day before the party that I couldn’t take the basting stitches out of the surplices without replacing them somehow–the layers would separate and flap around! My solution was to prick-stitch along each surplice in my purple thread, taking care to come up through a section of lace so as to hide the stitching on the right side. It is utterly imperceptible from the outside as a result!

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Wrong side of prick stitches on surplice neckline

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Right side of the same section–can you find the stitches? xD

I didn’t have any real trouble sewing the lace; the cording got bulky quickly, as did any areas of heavier embroidery that got taken up in darts, but my machine handled it just fine. I used my straight stitch plate most of the time to prevent the feed from eating the lace, though! I used a Microtex 70/10 for the bodice by itself, and an 80/20 Universal for the wool/silk gabardine, as well as for joining the bodice and skirt together and inserting the zipper. The zipper, by the way, is longer than the pattern called for: 24″ vs. 22″. I made this decision when I was still planning on a trouser jumpsuit: due to the difference in my waist and hips, I needed more room to unzip and wiggle into the thing! This held true even with the skirt, so #noregrets. I had to call Wawak to order the zipper, because the colors on their website weren’t showing up very accurately and I had Very Serious Questions. Tanya (I think? It’s fuzzy now…) was able to understand what color I needed and give me accurate information about the choices they had; it turned out that the best match wasn’t even listed on their website in that length, but she hooked me up and I couldn’t be happier with the match.

Conclusion

This is a fantastic pattern, and I highly recommend it if jumpsuits are your thing. Just pick a drapey fabric for the trousers–or at least something with more drape than wool/silk gabardine!–and you’ll be okay! I would love to revisit this pattern another time and get my fantasy jumpsuit, but my next project will absolutely be something less stressful!

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Remembered to get one pic on Saturday…3 drinks deep and on the way home, LOL.

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This *felt* treacherous in those shoes…

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“Talk to the fabulous lace-clad hand…”

Have you made a holiday outfit this year? If you’ve ever sewn with lace, how did it go? 

 

 

A Festive, Fiery Dress for Designin’ December (aka The Anna Has Landed)

Welcome! This VERY LONG post has been a long time coming–my initial muslin for this dress was completed during the summer months!–and I am glad I can finally share it with you. But be warned: this project did not end entirely happily.

Before I dive in here, a note about Designin’ December: this fun challenge taps into one of the reasons that sewing your own clothes can be so thrilling: you can replicate a designer or high-end garment that would otherwise be unattainable (due to price, color, limited size ranges, etc.) and make it your own. I love that Linda has gone to all the effort to include other people in her quest for designer style! When she announced this sewalong of sorts, I didn’t think I’d be able to join in–I hadn’t been researching designer dresses when I decided to make this dress–but was looking forward to seeing what everyone else chose and wanted to have in their closet. But as I worked on my dress, I remembered that the Gorgeous Fabrics description for my fabric had mentioned that dresses made in this very yardage had been for sale for several hundred dollars. I decided that some snooping was in order, and while I never did find THE dress made from this fabric, Elie Saab dresses kept coming up in my search results (for “ombre silk dress”).

I don’t know about you folks, but I LOVE snooping fashion week photo galleries and slobbering over all the pretties. The evening/red carpet gowns are always near the top of my lust-list, as impractical as they may be! Elie Saab is one of the world’s most awe-inspiring modern designers, in my opinion–his evening wear is second-to-none when it comes to delicate, feminine, dramatic, gasp-inducing beauty. I looked through the selection of ES dresses that were coming through the search and found two that both had elements of my own planned project:

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Elie Saab ombre dress; Photo property of BySymphony.com

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Elie Saab ombre dress; Photo property of Bergdorf Goodman

Upon seeing these, I decided to toss my dress into the Designin’ December group just for fun! My color palette is much more similar to the second photo, but the effect I got–and wanted!–is much more like the ombre pattern of the first photo. (But seriously, I would take that first dress in a heartbeat, because WOWWWWWWW.) And of course, I am incorporating a big split like the 2nd dress has! 😉 I did opt for the higher neckline from the Anna pattern, since I would rather stick to showing off ONE bit of skin at a time. YMMV, of course! It helps that my chest resembles something more like a xylophone than bountiful cleavage, and I’m pretty sure nobody wants to see that in a deep V neckline!! But I bet you *do* want to see this dress, right? Drum roll, please…

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Anna in motion

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Reclining on a bridge, as one does

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Filtered for lighting, but you get the idea

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Bodice and waist

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Skirt!

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Back

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Big front split, up close

IT’S SO PRETTY I’M GONNA DIEEEEE!!! 😀 The close-up series of the bodice and skirt are probably the truest depiction of the color of the fabric in real life. Now for the gory details:

I did a lot of fiddling with the fit on the bodice, but I had it down. Side seams and pleats were appropriately relocated, and excessive waist ease (all 2+ inches of it) was marked for removal. And then somehow, after tireless preparations (gelatin bath for the silk, anyone?) and conscious choice-making (cutting the dress out on the floor of our non-climate-controlled walk-up attic so that all the yardage could lay flat and not be disturbed by “helpful” kitties), I did something wrong between making the new pattern and cutting out the bodice. The result? A bodice whose waist was about 1.5″ too small for me. (Had I been going for a fully-exposed zipper, it would have fit. But yeah, no.) The worst part? I didn’t realize it was too small until I had assembled THE ENTIRE BODICE, french seams and all, and we were trying to pin the zip opening closed to see how things were going (BECAUSE I WAS WORRIED IT MIGHT BE TOO BIG LOLOLOLOLOL). PSA: try not to do this, especially when sewing meticulous french seams in a silk crepe de chine. You will hate yourself, you will hate your dress, and you will hate literally any living thing that dares to cross your path as you try not to vomit from rage and scramble to fix your fuck-up so that you can wear this damn dress. Note: this is doubly true if you are also dealing with bad things in your personal life when this sewing shitstorm occurs.

The bodice of this dress LITERALLY ended up in the trash can at one point–I knew how dangerous unpicking anything was going to be–and was only grudgingly rescued when I confirmed that I did not have enough fabric to recut the bodice AND preserve the ombre effect the way I was running it. Luckily for me and this demon dress, nobody had thrown away anything gross immediately before or after this tantrum. I believe my last words to my husband as I threw the wadded up, un-binned bodice onto my table and quit for the night were, “I don’t want to be awake anymore.” O_o

Now, since it has been several weeks since I did everything, I am not 100% sure now what went wrong. (That is why I try to start blog drafts when the project begins, which I did not do this time.) Regardless, it was my own damn fault and I had to buck up and fix it if this dress was ever going to see the light of day.

Rather than mutilate myself or go on a tapeworm diet, I ripped out (yep) the outermost pleats in the bodice and re-sewed them much narrower at the waist, tapering to the prescribed width by the time I reached the stopping points; the remainder was picked up by using a 3/8″ SA at the waist area of the center back zipper instead of the included 5/8″. This would not have been quite as possible had my invisible zipper tape not been 3/8″ wide, so thank you, little crappy zipper. Unfortunately, while these on-the-fly fixes solved the zipping-things-up problem, they *also* resulted in the side seams of the bodice no longer matching up with the side seams of the skirt, which as you may remember, I had already painstakingly fixed before sewing the final muslin. Yay! (Not.) My choices were to live with it, or scrap the dress. I opted to live with it. Is this an example of the sunk cost fallacy in action? Perhaps, but here we are. In addition, my silk dress ended up with lots of excess fabric in the back above the waist–and it was much more prominent than it had ever been in my final muslin. Instead of the excess looking like wearing/design ease in a flowing fabric, it looks quite blouse-y and I’m not particularly happy with it. 😦

And now for some gloating: I am very, very pleased with my hand stitching on the sleeve hems, split, and one side of the bottom hem. The other side of the bottom looks just as good from the outside–which is ultimately what is most important, right?–but I fell into automaton mode and did a much more visible stitch on the inside and only realized what I had done when I finished and looked at my sleeve hems again. D’oh! I don’t want to rip it out (this project has had quite enough of that already) but it does bother me. Here is one of the good pieces:

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Hem stitching

I also decided to do a lot of hand overcasting on this project. I suppose that’s my vintage nerd coming forth–you see that finish a lot in Victorian-era garments particularly–but it was soothing work and I think it looks neat. I used that finish on the CB seam below the zipper and on the closed portion of the front split seam, which were both sewn normally due to the difficulty of doing french seams in those areas.

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Hand overcasting; obviously the right side was the second stretch!

The entire waist seam was stabilized with silk organza selvedge strips; since the waist ease is minimal (which was what I wanted in the first place) and that seam has to bear the weight of the long-ass skirt, this was absolutely necessary. I may also go back and add a proper waist stay once I stop fuming at this dress, because that would help with both of these concerns and look a bit nicer.

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You can see the organza here; I didn’t bother zipping it for such a short photo session.

This dress marks the first time I have inserted a zipper by machine. (I know, I know, that sounds stupid. But I like the control and freedom to sit on the couch that I get with hand insertions, and somehow that way always felt more approachable to me from a “this is something I can do successfully” standpoint.) It was also the first invisible zipper I have ever used. I am pleased to gloat say that I got the zip in on the first pass! I do not have a specialized foot for this kind of zipper, but my regular zipper foot was perfectly sufficient. I could have gotten a little closer to the teeth, but that’s about the only complaint I have. Rather than thread baste the zipper in place–which I had done with EVERY other seam of this dress–I used Wash-Away Wonder Tape to stick it down. (#noregrets, because that stuff RULES.) I then sewed the rest of the CB seam; the last step was to attach the facing to the neckline and zipper before putting the dress through a wash cycle to remove the gelatin. The wash went perfectly and the dress was then (clutch your pearls, y’all!) dried in the dryer on an air-only cycle for about 1 hour and 45 minutes. After a final press, this beauty was ready for her debut!

That debut was my company holiday party, and it was quite a hit! Here we are before leaving the house:

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A little washed out, but you get the idea!

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So handsome! (The “Captain Morgan” pose was to show off his new coordinating dress socks!)

Here are a few more photos from today’s outing; we’ve had unseasonably warm weather this weekend, so even though the lighting was utter shit, we took the opportunity to get some photos done without freezing to death!

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Anna Attitude

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“…are you taking the photo?”

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Caught a little bit of the breeze!

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Don’t mind my face–this was a great dress pic!

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Gotta flash the leg! (And UGH again with the face.)

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You know you aren’t a real model when you have to walk to your photo shoot in your evening dress AND carry your own keys and phone…

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Pensive

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Some more filter tweaks for lighting purposes

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Being ridiculous

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Pulling a face for y’all

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My “Are we done yet?” face

So that’s the skinny (LOLOL see what I did there?!?) on this dress. Please check out other Designin’ December pieces over at Linda’s space, because it’s always fun to see what other people come up with! As for me, I am working out what to make next–goodness knows I have one hell of a queue built up by now! Perhaps something for Jungle January?? 😉

Have you ever screwed up mid-project and had to scramble for a fix? Were you happy enough with the results to wear or use the item?