Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Dress

Happy Easter! This is my Easter dress. It's a lovely green J. Crew bias-cut dress handed down from a friend. I love how the bias drape makes my hips look slim and proportionate! When I got the dress, it fit like this:
It was hard to get a photo on myself, but know that it was very gappy around the bust. I definitely wouldn't have bought a dress this ill-fitting, but I wanted to try my hand at making it fit. As is often the case with dresses, the fit was perfect from the waist down but too big above the waist. The right thing to do would have been to take the waistband off of the dress, take out the zipper, make the waistband smaller toward the top, and put the zipper back in. But I wanted to make easy-to-reverse alterations that would preserve the original dress in case I decided I couldn't make it work. So I made three darts, one at the center front and one on each side back where the cup comes in. They take out about 2 inches total around the top of the waistband, and they make the dress wearable for me. The front dart also had the effect of making the neckline a little higher by sewing part of the cups together.
The neckline is still more plunging than my usual, and when I was on my bike, it was borderline scandalous. I also feel like when I stand up the waistband is too loose and when I sit down it's too tight but I feel like the halter needs to be tightened. I'm not sure how to go about fixing this. I might make the side darts less tight or eliminate them altogether and do everything in the front dart. Or I might sew in a camisole-like piece at the center front for more modesty. I'm going to Easter dinner tonight with friends, and I'll see how the dress stands up to the motions of sitting and eating and whether I feel too immodest. It might end up being a dress I only wear with a wrap or sweater or to events where I will be on my feet most of the time.

Friday, April 22, 2011

She'll make you flip

Yesterday this beautiful pattern came in the mail. I got it from the She'll Make You Flip on etsy, and I am completely besotted with it. That pocket! I don't know exactly what year it's from, but the seller said it was from the 1940s. It is definitely the oldest pattern I've ever used. Some differences between modern patterns:
It uses the phrase "slide fastener" instead of "zipper."

The pattern markings are punched instead of printed. I am a little intimidated, but really it's not that different. The only thing I'm a bit unsure about is whether the seam allowance (which is not the standard 5/8", but 1/2" in most places and 3/4" in others) is included. I'm going to have to look that up. I'm assuming it is because I think you're supposed to do a tissue fitting by pinning the pattern pieces together and seeing how they fit on you.

Another difference is that I'm not going to have to alter it much at the waist. Usually I have to add 3-5 inches at the waist when I use the pattern with my bust size, but this pattern is sized for someone whose waist is only 1/2" less than mine. I found that strange because I think of the silhouette as getting heavier as time went on. (I will have to add at the hips, but only 4 inches instead of 6.)

I'm so excited about making this pattern! Now I just have to decide what to make the first try out of. I want it to be goo enough fabric that I will enjoy wearing it but not super-special fabric that I will be sad to have wasted if it doesn't work out. Here are some candidates from my fabric stash.
There's this combination of stripes and a print in harmonious colors, but that might be too funky. And I'm not sure how stripes would look on top anyway. I might have enough of the print to make the whole dress out of it, but that's definitely not the case with the stripes. Or I could use this light brown very narrow wale corduroy with the lower print as the top. (The second picture is to show the texture, but it didn't come out very well.)
There's this yellow flower print:
And this blue herringbone heavy shirting:
I was going to use that for a shirtwaist dress, but it might look nice in this pattern. Or I could use that for the skirt with a white or subtle print on top. The possibilities are a bit overwhelming.

If and when I get around to this dress, I'll let you know. I hope it looks good.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A new skirt and discovering my waist

I made this a couple weekends ago as a muslin for a skirt I'd like to make out of this fabric:
There isn't enough of the bicycle print, so I'm going to patch something together with the purple stuff. Both are remnants. I don't think this pattern is the right skirt for that fabric. I was thinking of something like this skirt Katherine made, but I saw this pattern that used to belong to my mom, and I thought pleats aren't much different from gathers, so why not try that? Well, it turns out that pleats are quite different from gathers, and I think the bicycles would get lost or look like a shopping bag or something. I'm thinking about making my own pattern for that one since I want a pretty simple pleated skirt with a waistband.

I have quite a few of my mom's old patterns. This one is from 1969, and I'm assuming that's when she used it. Old patterns only came in one size, and conveniently, my bust is the same size as my mom's was, so the patterns are always the right size. (Of course, my waist and hips are way bigger than they "should be" for that size, but waist and hip adjustments are easy.) My waist is 4 1/2 inches bigger than the sizing chart on the back of this one, and my hips are 6 inches bigger. I just added 4 1/2 inches to the whole pattern because it's so poofy, so getting the right size on the hips was not necessary. It was very easy to do because both the front and back are on the fold, so I just pinned the pattern a little away from the fold.

Since this was a muslin, I didn't work too hard on finishing details. Also, I can't find my regular zipper foot and I didn't have any invisible zippers in the right length, so I set a zipper without using a zipper foot. I don't recommend this.
I saw a girl on campus wearing a really cute dress with a gold zipper that was completely visible, and I tried to make that happen for this, but it didn't quite work, in part because of the zipper foot issue, and in part because I didn't take that into account when I placed the zipper. I got something halfway in between. But I think it's cute anyway. The waistband is fastened with two snaps, but I'm thinking about sewing a decorative yellow button on top. I've also been thinking a lot about adding words to clothing. T-shirts usually have slogans, but I'm thinking more along the lines of poetry, Bible verses, maxims to live by, etc. I might be decorating this with a favorite poem written around the hemline. The issue is that my handwriting isn't that good, and I'm worried about being too pretentious. But I think customizing clothing with favorite words would be a nice way to make my creations more personal, and that's one of my long-term sewing goals. Also, if I made this again, I would add a pocket on the non-zipper side. A skirt this roomy could accommodate a pocket with no trouble, and I find pockets very convenient.

This skirt is way out of my comfort zone. I grew up at a time when wearing things at the natural waist was not fashionable at all. (I know because my jeans came up to my waist, and I felt like a total loser. I can't say for certain whether those are related, but I think the cool kids had hip-huggers.) I have taken that aesthetic into my adulthood, but it seems like clothing that emphasizes the waist is getting popular again, so I decided to give it a try. I definitely feel like this is hugging my armpits, but I think it works. I don't think I want a lot of skirts that are this poofy around the hips, but I'm glad I have this one to play around with. I have been going through my closet and discovering that a lot of the skirts I have but don't feel beautiful in are greatly improved by taking in the waist and wearing them higher on my waist. Often, that makes them hit at a better length and emphasize my hourglassy bottom half. (I prefer "hourglassy" to "pear-shaped.") I have also been discovering belting. I have very few belts, but look what a difference it makes to the jet lag dress:
I think this outfit would be even cuter with a narrow orange or orangey-brown leather belt. But I'm working with what I've got. I was so amazed at how much better I thought this made the dress look that I was immediately sold on the idea of belting. Anyway, that's my big revelation: I have a waist. It is narrow and womanly. I feel beautiful when I dress in a way that emphasizes that.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Two old shirts

I don't remember when I made these. The date on the pattern is 2000, so it was probably around then. Maybe the summer between my junior and senior years of high school? I really liked the wrap look on the back on view A of Simplicity 9269, so I made it up in this cute lily pad print.
Frustratingly, even though I cut out the sizes that should have worked at bust and waist, it was way too big. (This is when I learned that some patterns are better than others, and some are downright wrong.) I took in the side seams by about 5/8 of an inch each (that means the pattern that was supposed to fit me was actually 2 1/2 inches too big-a pretty big difference).
It was still a big too big, particularly in the bust, but part of the problem was that the neck was too wide, and there's not much I could do to fix that. The boatneck is not a very flattering shape on me anyway. I have worn the top a few times, but it's never been one of my most-loved garments. Of course, it's also a pretty crazy fabric pattern, so I wouldn't be able to wear it much, even if I loved it. I still liked the criss-cross, though, so I wondered if I could highlight that more by pulling it to the front. So I decided to play with it. I folded out the darts in the pattern (I'm so small-chested that losing them didn't matter much), cut a couple sizes smaller, and wore it backwards. For some reason, even though the criss-cross is symmetrical on the lily pad fabric, it's asymmetrical on this blue fabric (the bottom of the V-neck is on my right side), but I actually like it better that way.
This iteration didn't work perfectly, either. I think the shoulders are just too far apart, even in a size smaller than I should be wearing; if I ever try it again, I'll have to take a little bit out of the middle to correct for that. Also, the armholes are a little too tight. I also only wear this rarely, but that's because it shows my navel. I don't think it's appropriate to go to school or church with my navel showing, but yesterday I was going to the Art Car Museum for an artist lecture in the afternoon, and I thought it would be OK for my tummy to show a little.
I am glad that I've stayed the same-ish enough size that I can still wear these shirts, and I'm also glad that 17-year-old me was creative with the pattern. I had fun (and felt cute and a little saucy) wearing this yesterday.