Tag Archives: dresses

The dress that would not be kept black!

2 Jul

It started as Butterick 4386, a versatile sheath dress.

Actually, it remains very much a B4386, as the only alterations I did were to shorten it and add pockets. Well, yeah, that and texturize the heck out of it with long strips of fabric. But that’s it.

I basically just copied a dress I saw a woman wearing in a restaurant. Hers had the sleeves stripped, as well, which I had a whole idea for doing in a way that would make the fronts wrap around the shoulder and match up with the back. But once I got the sleeves set in, I liked the way they looked, solid–like that finished detail emphasized the texture of the body, even farther.


I like this dress. There’s one strip on the front that I can see, from the photos, curves out of line (how does that happen?! And in such a visible place!) that I have to go back and fix. I added side seam pockets because hey–who can’t use pockets? But they do add bulk to the hips that shows in almost all the photos, and they gap open a lot, in spite of a fair bit of understitching, so I believe I’ll just be picking those out, now. Pockets, schmockets…that’s what handbags were invented for!

I think it would also be just fine in black…if ever I have enough black fabric, and am inspired to do it all over again.

Rising to the Challenge of the Little Black Dress

30 Jun

I’ve been thinking, since my retail exception for the black dresses, of what it might take, in a sewing project, to make it appealing to undertake a black dress project. Would it be fabric–something with drape, or an appealing texture? A particularly unique design? Some fun technique that I wanted to try so much, it wouldn’t even matter if the fabric was black?

I couldn’t come up with an answer to that question…until a couple of nights ago, out for cocktails, a woman at the venue wore a dress I couldn’t keep my eyes off of. Hers was green, but it had a decorative detail that was so fun and simple and intriguing to me, I thought “I’d like to try to make that, myself…and that’s a dress that I could even make, in black.”

What’s more, the dress requires a knit, with a bit of stretch, and I happen to have a bolt of a smooth black knit in my stash that I think I could use just for this purpose. I’m going to try it: without buying any new fabrics or patterns, I’d like to imitate the effect of the woman’s green dress, for myself: in black.

(Not even close to the black dress I’m attempting…but a pretty neat one just the same. Those women on the far right, they wish they had a black dress!)

Shift-ing into Summer

9 Jun

Turning my back on black, it’s time to bring out the color. I went back to the embroidered Indian fabric I originally bought for a skirt, in March, when the weather was still cold. I wanted more than a skirt. Plus, I haven’t been sewing in a few weeks (other projects took over my attention) so I needed something light and easy to get back into it.

I chose what is becoming my standby, my “Wear the Shift” pattern:

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I laid the pattern out right along the lace edging of the fabric, to use the fabric’s border as a hem. And since it was scalloped on both sides, I cut the strip of scallops off the opposite side to use that, as well, as a double-layered scallop. Since the lace needed to be fully lined, anyway, I attached the second strip of lace to the hem of the lining underneath.

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It’s bright, it’s summery, it’s decidedly not black, and all of that is good. However, reading sewing blogs has made me paranoid about wrinkles, and this dress definitely wrinkles. If wrinkles point out areas of poor fit, then something is surely off, here, which is troubling, because this is my custom built-for-me dress pattern that I’ve made a half dozen times. It could be the way the lace lays over the lining, or it could be the way the grain shifted slightly as I lined the pattern up by the hem rather than the true grainline…or it could be a few added pounds. It’s difficult to say for sure, except the one sure thing I am learning in this project is that “fit is hard”.

And even the old “tried and true” can throw you for a loop, when you’re getting all creative with it.

In the month of May…

6 May

…nearly six months after resolving to refrain from buying clothing, and live on only what I could make for myself, I broke my resolution. Yes, dear readers, I did it: I bought retail clothing.  But as I said last December, “breaking rules is part of fashion, too, and it will be interesting to find those lines along which my personal ambitions crumble.”
And it is an interesting line, indeed. It turns out that my sewing “kryptonite” is none other but the classic black dress. I bought two, to wear for specific events coming up on my schedule. Yes, I could have made my own black dress. For one of them, I even made it as far as buying a pattern, working through all the elements of the dress that I wanted, and committing to one specific design. I bought the pattern…and there the project languished. I could not muster up any enthusiasm to go to the fabric store, just to look for the right length of black cloth. I hemmed and hawed and procrastinated, until I realized that even if I found the fabric, I no longer have enough time to complete the project before the intended event.

The fabric store, you see, was my final obstacle to the process. Fabric stores, to me, are seductive places of whim and fancy and imagination: “What could this become?” The lure of textures and patterns that I haven’t discovered, before. This fabric has shine–and look, that one is nubby, and who would have ever thought, of putting these two colors together in this way?  Black, for all its virtues, has no lure of the undiscovered. Black is wonderful, in many, many respects, but as a crafting project, I do not find it tantalizing. The idea of sewing black fabric to more black fabric made me…not want to sew, at all. Add to that the problem that my selected design came fully lined, as well–so then I would embark on sewing the thing (the outside) and then repeating the whole thing another time (for the inside), and stitching the two together. Two miles of stitches, and all in black, and the task seemed sheer duty rather than pleasure, and I just could not bear to do it.

Painting: “She Wore Black” by Loui Jover.

So I bought up two little black dresses–one very basic, that I surely could have made myself, but in a dutiful fabric that would never call to me from the bolt, and one with many details (pointed collar, button plackets, turned-up cuffs) that I love to work on, but would never find patience to complete, in a black-on-black version.

So there you have it: I am a great lover of black dresses, I find them a very useful uniform in my daily life, but I simply cannot bear to sew them, myself.  And having purchased two (surely enough to get me through the hardest times) I went for a celebratory jaunt to my favorite local fabric store, where I bought yards of bright red cherry-blossom print, and Ikat, and 1960’s modernist print, and a lovely layered and textured piece in a deep rose-brown. In short, anything and everything but solid black!   And then I started stitching again, duty banished, and immersed in the joy of the craft, once more.

Wearing the Shift

4 Jan

Quite some time ago, a friend alerted me to a Kickstarter project out of Pittsburgh called “Wear the Shift”, which focused on creating custom-made dresses to fit all bodies. It focused on alternatives to many aspects of mass-market clothing retail, from using (or reusing) vintage materials, to making clothes well so that they can last longer–fewer items, but better-fitting, more comfortable, and more well made. A kinder, more sustainable sort of fashion.
Now, Wear the Shift is releasing their custom-designed shift dress patterns so that home sewers can get in on the action, too.  Today you’ll find me guest-blogging over on the Wear the Shift site about my experiences working with my custom Shift dress pattern:

You can get a custom pattern drafted for yourself, starting tomorrow, over on Wear the Shift’s Etsy store. And today (and always) you can find cute shifts and skirts there as well (also custom made to fit your individual body in all its sizing peculiarities).