Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Mixed Media Frock for Frocktails (V8945)

I spent a lot of time planning this frocktails dress; drawing all the possible dresses and moving snips of favourite fabrics between the sketches. And then suddenly there were just 3 weeks to go and some of the Melbourne crew were starting to talk about their completed frocktails dresses. Holy crab...

Under a bit of pressure I chose a dress and fabric combination that I thought would be warm enough for Melbourne and dramatic enough to express my personal style... it was certainly warm enough, and the sleeves are certainly saying something!

The pattern I used for this dress was Vogue 8945, a very easy Vogue that came out a couple of years ago (2013 I think?). The suggested fabrics are lovely drapey things like faille, crepe and challis - and I've seen some gorgeous incarnations of the pattern in these fabrics - but I had a fabric that made me think of Alexander McQueen, a black and white thick bonded polyester with absolutely no give to it, and that's what I really wanted to use, so... So I did!

I cut the dress out in my standard size: 12 from shoulders to bust, blending to a 14 below the bust. The sleeves were from dress version B (straight sleeve to above the elbow, and sleeve flounces below the elbow), and the neckline a much narrowed and reduced version of the rounded neckline in version A.

In the back of the dress I used an invisible zip rather than the recommended regular zip simply because I find them easier to install than regular zips, and I left off the vertical back darts as I thought I didn't want the dress to be too fitted. 

Originally I cut the upper sleeves from the same fabric as the body of the dress BUT of course a radical change to the suggested fabric type affects fit, and the original sleeves were tight and uncomfortable, and resulted in a lot of pulling through the dress body. I swapped them out for cosy, stretchy black merino wool sleeves that eased beautifully into the arm scye and that allow for as much arm motion as I could possibly want - they're even a little loose!  Stash to the rescue!

Next challenge? A narrow hem for the bonded polyester flounce sleeve?  No thanks - imagine the bulk! Instead (thank you again, stash!) I finished the edges with poly satin bias binding folded over, which I think you can just see in the above photo.

I didn't have enough of the bonded polyester to make it into triple layer flounce sleeves, and I think the fabric would have been way too heavy and thick for three layers anyway, so once I'd finished my single black and white flounce I went through my stash for a coordinating fabric for the under layers of sleeve flounce.  The fabric I came up with, a coral silk organza, is just what I wanted - it has lots of body, which is great under the thick polyester, and it also drapes beautifully.  The sleeves were supposed to be three separate flounce layers, but I wanted clean edges and extra body in the organza, so I trimmed the two organza layers to the same size, sewed them together, trimmed the seams and pressed them inside out.  I LOVE the way this looks - so schmick!

I ended up hand stitching the double organza layer to the seam between upper and lower arms as I wanted to get just the "right" amount (yes, of course that's subjective!) of silk organza showing all around, and after lots and lots of pinning to different sleeve lengths a machine stitch seemed risky :).

Apart from the sleeves, I guess the other interesting thing going on with this dress is the fabric. It's sort of like an animal print, and sort of abstract, and the print moves in swirls and curves with light and dark areas. I tried really hard to factor these aspects of the print into my pattern layout, but I didn't have a lot of extra fabric to play with... Maybe I should tell you what I was trying to do with my print placement, and let you judge for yourselves whether or not I managed it?  I was trying to get (1) the swirls of print below my bust and near my hips, (2) the prints to look like they belonged alongside each other on the side seams, and (3) the sleeves' print to look like they belonged with the part of the dress they sat alongside.  I don't think I did that great a job with (1) but I'm happy with (2), and everything changed in (3) when I swapped out the upper sleeves for black merino wool.

The night before frocktails I did some brutal last minute fitting and finishing, trying to see the dress through a party filter. I lopped a good couple of inches from the dress length before hand stitching a deep hem; I think the dress would have sewn up as just above knee length on me otherwise. And I took the whole dress in a size or more through the side seams and gave it back the waist the back darts would probably have suggested - but it still looks loose through the waist in all these photos. In fact I can also see some excess fabric in the upper chest, but I don't know how I could have removed that without compromising movement and comfort. With the waist level pouching I think a couple of vertical darts below the bust would have helped, as would those darts in the back I skipped - I'll have to think about darts if I make this pattern again, though the fit would be entirely different and perhaps more forgiving in a drapey fabric.

And how do I feel about the dress? Well it was very comfortable to wear, plenty warm enough for a winter cocktail party in Melbourne. and I'm really pleased to have made the dress I wanted to make rather than something "safe". That does sound silly and trivial, doesn't it, but I think making a statement with your clothes is absolutely suitable for frocktails!

And finally, maybe you're asking yourself whether this is a stunt frock - will it be worn again? Surprisingly for something so dramatic, no and yes! I wore it all day on the day I took these photos, and as a result of the sleeves had some lovely sewing conversations in a costume shop. And then I wore it out to a fancy dinner this weekend - so that's three wears in a month!

Not all the photos have normal faces in them...

See you soon!

- Gabrielle xx

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