Friday, October 2, 2009

Homecoming '09: Lady in Red

Last spring, Miss M asked to be placed on the "waiting list" to have me make her Homecoming dress for this fall. I laughed, (what waiting list???) and happily obliged, as she is a wonderful young lady (charismatic, smart, witty, hard-working, mature, responsible, and beautiful, are just a few of the words that come to mind). A month ago, she handed me a sketch she drew, and together we worked out the details. Today, she modeled this in front of the entire student body and staff (and audience of about 1,800)! (I do have her and her parents full permission to post these pictures.) the sketch
I love how it's on lined notebook paper!!! Isn't she an amazing artist? You'll notice that we switched shoulders and eliminated the drapey thing. She wanted a smooth, close fit, so we also eliminated the ruching (sp?).


the fabric
Duchesse Satin from Fabric.com, in Valentine Red. We had to go with the poly (not the silk) to keep costs down (and splurge on the trim). This was my first time working with this fabric, and I absolutely love the weight and drape. I wanted the dress to have an elegant flow, and not be clingy, and I feel like I achieved that. It was also very easy to work with (no fraying, took heat well) and not too expensive. I used almost every inch of the 4 yards (60" wide) that I ordered, because of the fullness and length of the skirt.

the trim
Thank goodness for M&J Trims in NYC! I knew they would have something to fit the bill, but when I saw the prices, I checked out other options. I couldn't find anything as wide as the waistband I wanted, so I bit the bullet, called the store, and they were willing to sell me 1.5 yards (only full yards on the website, so I called to check). When I tried it against the red, it made me think of spiderwebs, and I knew she wanted it all black, so I sandwiched a double layer of black tulle between the beaded trim and the solid black backing. This was recommended by one of my instructors at the Sewing Expo last week, to hide the fraying threads of the cut-away parts and help the trim blend into the backing. It gives it more of a beaded lace look, and I'm really happy with the result. My sequence here was to stitch the waistband front and back together, lay the tulle over it, then pin the trim down, and trim the tulle. I basted all 3 layers together by hand (the most time consuming step of construction) to secure all the cut away parts. Then I grabbed the hammer. You read that correctly, I grabbed the hammer. To insert an invisible zipper along that beaded waistband, I had to eliminate the beads along the seam line, so I carefully taped about 1/2" away, and used the hammer to break any beads close to the zipper stitching line. An instructor at the Sewing Expo said this method gets rid of the "problem beads" without cutting the stitching and loosening any others. Genius, if you ask me! I was rather nervous about taking the hammer to the beads, but it was fast, it was easy, and it was a little fun. After cleaning up the pieces, I then stitched the waistband to the bodice, then the bodice to the skirt, and was able to easily insert an invisible zipper that glided up and down the waistband seamlessly! But, if I had to do over again, I would've stitched closer to the border beads to the red satin butted right up against them (too short on time, though)!
the pattern
Simplicity 2692 was what I used for the bodice top and waistband. I eliminated the bust gathers, and replaced them with simple darts (but should've done a better fitting). For the skirt, we wanted more of an a-line, so I dug into my stash and found a pattern for a skirt with a waistband yoke very similar to this dress. I added lots of length (via newspaper), and adjusted the top to match the circumference of the waistband. Miss M is fairly tall, so I had to add another 4" to the muslin to make it hit the floor! The end result was a beautiful floor length skirt with great flow. Many people who saw the dress on her today said how well the style suited her frame, cinching her at the high waist and flowing out from there. Drawing the eye there (the beading and color blocking helped a lot) made her look thinner and longer... very, very elegant, too!
construction
She accidentally bought the wrong size pattern, so I had to add some onto a few pieces. The muslin was cut and constructed in 1 night, and fit her perfectly (I think I learned more in NY than I realized!), aside from a 1" adjustment in at the top of the zipper. Putting it all together was actually pretty simple, and the only time consuming part was hand basting the beaded trim layers. The lines were clean, and there weren't any crazy angles or straps to deal with, so I really liked making this dress. I used 1/4" twill tape along the bodice top front and back curves to prevent the bias from stretching out the neck. No interfacing anywhere (the multiple layers in the waistband took care of that structure), and I used an invisible zipper in the side. From muslin to final hem, I worked on this for about 2 weeks, off and on, after school and when the kids went to bed. Not too bad, compared to the prom dress last May that took multiple muslins and fittings!
what i learned
A great trim can take a simple dress from good to great, and is worth the money! This dress is a success because of the perfect marraige of fabric, trim, and style. I am proud to say that I made it, and I had many colleagues and students complimenting me on it today. I also learned that I am better at adjusting patterns and putting different pieces together than I thought, and this project improved my sewing confidence quite a bit! Between my Top Ten Contest dress and this one, I'm starting to think I have a thing for beads! If I had to do over, I would've started earlier, and worked on a better fit in the bodice. Now that I think about it, it was perfect at the last fitting for the hem, so I wonder if it's her choice of undergarment that is producing all those pull lines. Hmmm....
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The American Sewing Expo was this past weekend, and was fun, as usual. I attended 3 classes: Islander Industrial Shortcuts, The Best of Sandra Betzina, and Working with Formalwear Fabrics. The were all interesting, but the Betzina one was rather disappointing. Rather than talk about sewing techniques, she went through a rack of samples for her Vogue pattern collection, so it was like an hour long sales pitch. She's a funny lady and I'm a huge fan (she signed my "Power Sewing" book!), so I enjoyed the hour, but it could've been better spent...
The Top Ten Contest by PatternReview was fun, but stressful. I was nervous about modeling, and when I saw all the skinny young models, I thought, "This is not going to end well..." I met some PR members and made new sewing friends, so I really liked that part. I really didn't like the part when I didn't get called back on stage for a prize, but I have to say that the pictures Deepika posted of the entries do not do them justice. There was some really great garments backstage, so I knew right away, I would probably be going home empty handed. Well, not really... I took home a great bamboo knit dress with some amazing hand beading!!! Here is a pic of the 4 winning garments: the $1000 grand prize was won by the 3rd in line (black/white suit with ruffled skirt).
The sales floor was filled with the usual vendors, so I brought home a pair of Kai pinking shears, a book to help me make better use of my embroidery software (PE Design 8.0 by Brother), and Islander men's shirt pattern and Industrial Shortcuts video, and 1 piece of fabric. Yes, I only bought 1 fabric at the show, a really great striped sweater knit for the Betzina sweater-vest I was shopping for in NYC. This should be a quick project, so I hope to knock it out in the next week or so! Hope you are all being productive as the weather officially switches from summer to fall here. It's been cold and blustery here the last few days, definitely time to pack away the short sleeves and find the turtlenecks!

17 comments:

Cindy said...

I love the line of the red dress. Nice job--and adore the black contrast!

KID, MD said...

Beautiful!! I've been looking forward to seeing it.

Marybeth said...

Hi, Kristine - what a beautiful dress... I like the color a lot - I wore a red dress to my senior prom, and I still have it!!! It was in 1986, so it's not as elegant looking as the one you made for homecoming, but I still love it!!! She looks beautiful and will always remember that dress!
http://puppydogtails-marybeth.blogspot.com/

Dana said...

The dress is just beautiful! I love the drape of the skirt.

BeeBee said...

Beautiful dress, it's great the owners loves it too.
I felt the same way about the Betzina "class". I was expecting some techiques and tips, not an hour on how great her patterns are. BUT I will say that I have a new look on her patterns that I've previously ignored (she's right, Vogue does a terrible job on the covers for her). And now I really want a faux fur vest.

Patty said...

Very pretty dress, and I like the fit.....not "hoochie-mama" like some high schoolers like to wear! That lovely trim makes the dress special.
I sewed my daughter a red Vera Wang one year for Homecoming....I'll have to dig out the photo! BTW, I agree with your assessment of the Expo, I was there Fri and Sat, wish we could have connected! (I was in Sandra B's seminar on Fri).

julia said...

She looks gorgeous! You did a fantastic job fitting her and reading her style! I'm sure she wore it proudly and felt beautiful.

JoanneM said...

Great dress for Homecoming-love the color! Many congrats on entering your black bamboo dress-I saw it in person and I thought it was great!!!!!

Penny for your heart said...

It is wonderful that she had a dream dress and you were able to make it come true for her. She looks so happy. I love the idea of using a hammer to whack the beads away! I hate my pinking shears (too stiff), so please let us know how the Kai version works.

Penny for your heart said...

It is wonderful that she had a dream dress and you were able to make it come true for her. She looks so happy. I love the idea of using a hammer to whack the beads away! I hate my pinking shears (too stiff), so please let us know how the Kai version works.

gwensews said...

Very pretty dress. Love the black waistband. You made that young lady the dress of her dreams. Nice job.

robin said...

The dress turned out really great! It suits your student's figure perfectly.

I learned another use for a hammer (or other heavy object) in sewing yesterday - to break the fibers in a wool fabric to more cleanly turn said fabric and shape it into points/flatten it. I learned that one in class yesterday while working on my jacket.

alethia said...

Kris, you did a beautiful job. The color was fantastic. I love the drape of the skirt

amber said...

You did such a lovely job on the dress! She looks so happy to be wearing it - congrats!! :)

Lindsay T said...

Whew! You have been a busy camper these past couple of months. Good thing you're young and fit; I'd be in the hospital by now. Great job on the Homecoming dress!

Summerset said...

She's beautiful and it's not just your super fabulous red dress! Well, maybe that helps just a little.

Kathi said...

The dress is beautiful!! It is such a nice, classic look. Plus, it is age appropriate!