I made this dress to wear to Alex’s sister’s wedding.
Some specs: It’s Autumn here in NZ, and the ceremony will be outside, late afternoon. After the ceremony, the reception is at a golf club with a sit down meal and dancing. I wanted to wear a long dress but my choices from my existing wardrobe were white or sequinned gowns. Neither of these choices seemed appropriate.
Also, musing on SWAP, I wanted to make a dress that I would wear again. This dress will be ideal for those performance engagements where a fully sequinned gown is surplus to requirements.
For the purposes of the wedding, it’s also the sort of dress I can wear thick tights and a merino singlet under, with a vintage fur over top. It also will work in summer with nothing under (except undies and a bra of course) or at other times with a long petticoat. I’ve left it unlined for this reason.
The fabric was a gift from a friend. Initially I thought it was some sort of poly satin, but after having worked with it, I’m pretty sure it’s cotton silk which is my favourite fabric to sew with. The hand and finish of silk, with the sturdiness and ease of cotton.
To make this dress I used my bodice block with the french darts and boat neck, and took the A-line of the skirt from Style 4011, a vintage skirt pattern that continues to hit the mark (pictured on the right below). I wanted a softly bloused top, with a semi-fitted A-line skirt.
This worked really well until I put the zip in, and then I looked like the Hunchback of Notre Dame! So I took the bodice apart at the shoulders and lifted the entire bodice up – the back 4cm, and the front 3cm. This sorted the issue with the zip, generally improved the bodice fit but highlighted another problem: the bodice was too wide at the top. I fixed this by making a small pleat at the top of the bodice, which I like both as a fix, and as a detail. It also changed the design from a wider boat neck to a high, round neck.
(Interestingly I had already taken the bodice in under the arms and my back bodice was too wide at the top which I had adjusted as I fitted the zip. Clearly I need to work on my block a little more.) I then lowered the underarm 2.5cm (ish) grading out to 0.5cm around the shoulder before adding the bias facing. After a bit of stress, and problem solving I’m pretty happy with the end result.
I french seamed most of the construction, apart from the waist seam where I did quite a few fit adjustments. This I finished with twill tape to support the weight of the skirt on the waist seam. The twill tape does up with a hook and eye under the zip which creates a better fit at the waist too. It’s a technique you see often in vintage dresses. I bound the resulting raw edge with left over bias binding, and neatened the centre edge of the bodice under the zip so there are very few raw edges visible inside this dress.
I finished the neck and sleeve openings with bias facing and put an invisible zip in the back. I’m not a huge fan of invisible zips, but in this instance I wanted to have a really fine finish. I hand finished all the bias facings and the hem. A time-consuming job, but worth it IMO.
- White shoes I have had for about 4 years. Can’t remember where they are made, but Copenhagen I think. These are comfortable and good for walking in a damp garden as well as cutting a rug on the dance floor. They also have a slightly 30s vibe which suits the dress. You can’t really tell here, you’ll just have to take my word for it.
- Earrings were a pair of cheap costume numbers my mother was given by a student once. I’ve had them for ages and wear them often for evening or performance. I wore them to our wedding too!
- Pearl, rhinestone and seed pearl choker was my grandmother’s, like much of my jewellery.
- Fur is a loaner from a friend. It belonged to her grandmother.
- Flax clutch was a gift from a friend for my 40th.
- Ultimate accessory: The gorgeous husband on my arm!