July 28, 2012

Summer dress

Well, ehm, first I'd like to apologize for waiting so long to get back to you after the Modefabriek. I do have reasons for this, some of them are even good ones ;)

The first one is, quite simply, that two days of Modefabriek left me rather tired and with painful feet (you just can't not wear heels at a fashion trade show...). And because I'd been so busy helping to finish M's collection in the week before, there was the inevitable backlash in housework (E is just swamped in work lately, so he couldn't do much either). 
The really good reason however, has nothing whatsoever to do with fashion or sewing. It's that my mom had her second operation last week. The one remaining metal hip implant was removed and replaced by a non-metal one. We were all expecting her to have to go to a care home after leaving the hospital, like before. However, she did so well after the surgery and she's so good at feeling what she can and cannot do, they let her go home. My dad is taking care of her and she's doing really well, but of course, I had to pay a visit and help them a bit. 

Those were my excuses, now let me get on with the good stuff. Yesterday, I didn't feel like doing any of the chores on my to-do list. Instead, I decided to make a dress for the newly arrived hot weather. 

This dress. 

I tried to take very summer-y pictures with my big straw hat on, but small 'picture corners' and big hats don't go together, so I took it off.

I've had this fabric in my stash for two years and it was always intended for a summer dress. It's fairly thin blue cotton with large embroidered (with thread in the same colour) flowers with eyelets in a 40 cm wide band along one selvage. When I bought it, I envisioned a maxi-dress but I could never get excited enough about that idea to actually make it. 
So now, I did what I often do when trying to figure out what to make from a certain piece of fabric: I played around with it in front of my bedroom mirror. Lazy mornings are great for this (especially those rare random ones on week days, when there's no one else in the house). Just take ages to get dressed and 'analyze' several lengths of fabric in the process. 
With a fabric with an obvious border, like this one, a gathered skirt is the obvious choice. I also knew I wanted a bodice without sleeves but not strapless.

Knowing the 'regular' halter styles don't work for me (those are designed to flatter a larger bust) I tried out several things on the same sketch, before returning to the mirror and deciding on this very simple style.

Then, I started on the pattern. I combined my basic strapless bodice with my usual bodice sloper to draft the front pattern piece. The long ties are cut on. For the side back, I used the pieces of the strapless bodice, making the top edge of the piece lower towards center back. For the center back piece, I did something new. 

Can you believe I had never smocked? You know, put elastic thread on the bobbin and stitched in even rows to create a gathered, stretchy piece of fabric? Because smocked dresses were everywhere in past few years, I just got annoyed with the look I guess. To many of those looked like lazy sewing and fitting...
Now, I thought it might be just the right thing to create a bodice which would fit snugly but still be comfortable. 
As it turns out, I guess I should have made it a bit tighter although I'm OK with it for now.
It also has a side zipper (a hand picked regular zipper. I didn't have any blind zippers in the right colour and, because of that smocked back panel, there won't be a lot of pressure on it anyway) and the entire bodice is lined in the same fabric and has poly boning in front and side back pieces (maybe a bit over-constructed for a simple summer dress, I know)

I'm wearing it with my red elastic belt which I think provides a nice contrast. Of course, a dress like this would look best when worn over a fluffy petticoat but that would really be contrary to the idea of a simple little summer dress, wouldn't it?

Anyway, it's great for twirling around.


  1. It looks beautifully summery---I love your process for figuring out the design. :) I also love shirred back panels (which is what I call it with the elastic thread, reserving smocking for the decorative and non-stretchy hand-done version. Not sure if this is a wide-spread distinction or just my own peculiarity), although I do kind of feel like I'm cheating, too. Super comfortable, however.

    I hope you get some great sunny days, not to mention some leisure time, to enjoy it!

  2. The dress - and you - look fabulous and the smocking adds some visual interest to the back.

  3. It's really beautiful. Twirl away!

  4. Lovely dress! I call that type of sewing "shirring" too; here, we know "smocking" as hand embroidery over gathered rows of running stitches.
    I hope your mother is feeling better after her operation :)

  5. So pretty. Love twirly dresses for summer.

  6. Really loving the retro look...( hat too!) Such a beautiful style, and amazing that you designed it yourself. Love that It's plain deep dyed blue, adds to the classic look.

  7. I love this dress! and especially its very long neck ties. It's absolutely perfect with the sun hat. I am working on drafting a bustier and really want to try the smocking/shirring--it just makes it easier to breathe and eat more ;). I may have to try boning in the back as you have.

    Glad to hear that some warmth has arrived and that your mother made it home.

  8. I love the dress and you look very stylish...especially the hat picture. I wish you a great hot summer!

  9. Love LOVE this dress. It's very flattering on you.

  10. The dress looks perfect on you.