Thursday, 1 August 2013

Completed: The summer cocktail dress

Those of you who have followed me for a while know that I started a pattern drafting course earlier in the year. Three months ago I walked into my first session wondering whether my inspiration dress could be turned into a real one, made to measure, just for me. 

Summer cocktail dress: front

I had never drafted a pattern before so the first three lessons or so were a learning curve for me. I learnt how to take a picture and add it to my block. This 2D image then became separate pattern pieces, which is a wonderful experience when you have created them yourself. A few modifications were needed and then I set about the complex construction. I won't go into details but you find them all in previous posts. Last night I added the final stitch. 

Summer cocktail dress: front

Never one to shy away from a challenge, I honestly thought, at times, I had bit off too much with this dress. I don't think any item has taken me so long to finish nor has one demanded so much emotional investment. The construction was a little like a love-hate relationship. There were days when I adored it, days when I couldn't get excited about it. Posting about it made the process a little easier as the comments left were encouraging. I last left you at the terrifying stage of cutting the chiffon for the godets. Eventually they decided to cooperate although tears were nearly shed and I did need some expert help in getting the point right on the centre front one. Inserting godets into a seam is much easier, so much so that I added an extra one to the centre back seam. 

Summer cocktail dress: back

The dress has an invisible zip which I put in by hand. It is fastened at the top with a hook and eye. The bustier needed an extra layer on chiffon at the top to hide the fact that both sides had stretched. I also noticed that it wasn't big enough to cover my bra - not a look I was going for! The sleeves weren't as difficult as I expected them to be. I did have help putting them in but I added the cuff independently. The band on the right arm is a little tight but I do have room to move and didn't think it justified unpicking. I have to say I've had my fill of unpicking silk! 

Summer cocktail dress

Hemming isn't the part of sewing I enjoy the most and I had two hems to do. The lining is a double folded hem and ends higher than the chiffon. The chiffon is finished with a double zig zag stitch. I went all the way round with a zig zag and started again, all the way round, for a second time. Apparently this was one way of finishing a seam before over lockers entered the stage. This hem is small but it feels sturdy and provides a little bit of definition at the bottom. 

Summer cocktail dress: swirling

I learnt a lot throughout this process. I can now draft a basic pattern. I know nifty tricks for gatheringgetting rid of those pesky stitches that are missed and form little loops on your fabric and how to add godets. I know to pull back a little from such a complex idea the next time I do a course although some complexity is good! Fitting during the construction is a very good idea, I just need to remember that for future projects. Silk chiffon is a wonderful fabric but a nightmare to work with. It will be a while before I contemplate using it again. But the biggest thing I have learnt is that patience is your best friend in sewing (although the seam ripper could plausibly argue its worthiness for this prize). There were many times when I wanted to rush forward but I knew it wouldn't look right or it would damage the fabric. I did unpick the pieces I wasn't happy with, I wouldn't have done in many of my previous makes. You also cannot beat being taught by someone with many years experience. Special thanks have to go to Chris for getting me to the finish line. She went above and beyond the boundaries of the course.  

Summer cocktail dress: godet

Overall I am very happy with this dress even though it is very different to what I would normally wear. It is much more feminine than most of my dresses. The colours are not my normal colours and it is taking a while to get used to them. Would I make it again? Yes, but with changes. I would probably change the fabric, and maybe play around with the skirt a little. It is great that I can now take a item and recreate my own version. In case you're wondering, I saved myself over £3000 by making my version! Yet another reason why I love stitching! 

28 comments:

  1. Well done, what a brilliant result for all your hard work. And you've learnt so much. It sounds like a brilliant course. Love your twirly skirt :)

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    1. Thank you! I loved the course and the twirl is an added bonus!

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  2. You look amazing! It was definitively worth to keep going and to rip out stitches. Your dress really looks like an expensive designer dress! I just love it - especially the godets and colors of the chiffon. I am looking forward to see more of your own drafted patterns. Keep going :)

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    1. Thanks so much. I'll definitely be trying another self drafted pattern in the future but not with chiffon!

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  3. Congrats Claire! It looks fantastic!

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  4. What a lovely dress! Congratulations on a very professional result. Also, congratulations on winning the next stage of the pattern pyramid from my blog! Get in touch and let me know where I can send the bundle of pattern-loveliness to next. :)

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    1. Thanks for comment on the dress and also for letting me know about the pyramid. I've just been over to show my excitement and will be in touch shortly!

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  5. That's a lovely dress, congratulations! It sounds like you found the course really useful, maybe I'll have to consider doing it at some point (way!) in the future!

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    1. It was great fun! Definitely keep it in mind, you won't regret it.

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  6. Ooh, well done! What an achievement!

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  7. So beautiful! I'm so happy for you that you've finished it, and it's lovely!

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    1. Thanks Gail, it is a great feeling to finally share it with everyone!

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  8. Chiffon is so hard to work with, so you have done really well (i'm assuming it's your first time working with chiffon). A lot of work has gone into this dress, and it will be fantastic making it up again - you know what to do now.

    It is lovely - was it made for a special occasion or just for learning?

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    1. Thanks Sarah Liz. I've dabbled with chiffon before but not on this scale. It was made mainly for learning but it is useful to have a dress like this in the wardrobe!

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  9. Such an achievement and it really is a lovely dress. You should be super proud. You must post pictures of you wearing it out! I hope that you have an occasion in mind.

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    1. Thanks Kirsty. I'm thinking a cocktail on the coast over the next couple of weeks!

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  10. you are truly remarkable!!! i want to be you when i grow up!!!!

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    1. Thanks Emily! So good to see you here! Keep popping back.

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  11. Claire, this is a beautiful dress. I'm so impressed that you drafted the pattern yourself. You should be very proud.

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    1. Thanks Sam, it was great learning to draft the pattern!

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  12. Very pretty dress, well done! I am currently taking a pattern making course and am enjoying it a lot. But, it is moving so fast and there is so much to learn. I feel that it could have been broken up into two courses so that it did not feel as rushed. Glad you learned a lot from yours.

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    1. I know how you feel! I hope you are learning lots too.

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  13. How have I only just seen this??? It is gorgeous, so beautiful. You must be so proud of yourself that you produced it all yourself! And now you have a perfectly fitting pattern, So pleased for you as it's amazing :)

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    1. Thanks Katy! I now just need to find a suitable occasion to wear it at. Seeing your posts on self drafted patterns will continue to serve as inspiration to keep going!

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  14. This is gorgeous! I love the fabric, and the way it twirls! You look great in it:)

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