From scratch

That Dior dress…still in the making!

Do you remember that Dior dress I used as inspiration to make a similar one, about a hundred years ago? Well, I don’t blame you if you don’t, I would have forgotten about it too, did I not feel guilty about having yet another UFO in my drawer. So here is a quick recap of the starting point and the mistakes made on the way.

The inspiration:TheSecretCostumier - Dior dress TheSecretCostumier - Dior dress TheSecretCostumier - Dior dress

Image source:

At first I used a cap sleeved bodice pattern and almost gave it all up after I realised I should have cut the bodice in one piece with the sleeves…you know, like on the Dior dress, so that there aren’t any unnecessary seam finishes showing through the transparent fabric.TheSecretCostumier-Inspiration: That Dior dress

So I decided to draft a short kimono sleeved bodice. I also changed the base colour from red to black as I stupidly thought it will be ready by Autumn and it will go better with my black tights, but guess what…It’s still not done!

I have recently ordered a box of different sewing machine feet and I tried the rolled hem one on the neckline, but unfortunately the result is rather inconsistent, because of the thin fabric and the unstoppable unravelling…The situation is similar with the French seams, although I’m sure it’s more of a question of practice  than anything else.

I finished the edge of the front panels by zig-zag stitching over embroidery thread and cutting the excess fabric off.

Then I came up with a brilliant way to make pleats in the chiffon, attaching it to a piece of tulle, which worked out really well, apart from one little problem: the tulle is way to stiff to be sewn on top of the chiffon!TheSecretCostumier - The Dior dress...Still in the making! TheSecretCostumier - The Dior dress...Still in the making! TheSecretCostumier - The Dior dress...Still in the making! TheSecretCostumier - The Dior dress...Still in the making!

I know, I know, I should have seen this coming and I kind of did, but I thought it’s just going to give it a little support. Well, it’s way too much support, so the idea is to take it all apart and do it all over again now with a chiffon & chiffon combo. But before I take it apart I’ll try to show you next time how I did the pleating!

From scratch

This is how it all begun

    I’ve read somewhere that you shouldn’t set the bar too high for yourself in sewing, as the failure can be so discouraging, that you might end up giving up on dressmaking altogether. Well, I guess this does not apply to me, as that’s actually how I got into this in the first place.

    Two years ago I quit my job in a coffee shop and returned to Hungary to graduate. When I came back to London I realized that having a degree would not necessarily be any help in getting a job where you don’t have to stand all day, and my relationship ended that time too, so I got myself busy by planning a secret birthday party for my sister and moving back to Hungary to start a job. I wanted a big entrée, so I needed a special dress.

    During the last moth before the move, I was working temporarily, and was sketching the ideal dress between completing coffee orders . There was a red Lanvin dress, that really caught my eye, and since I didn’t own anything red, I decided to go with the colour. I also wanted something classic and sexy, something I could dress up and wear casually too, something like the little black cocktail dress I bought on a Zara sale a few years ago, and I wear all the time.

    I knew so little about sewing, that I fearlessly put together a fully lined backless dress with princess seams (copied the Zara dress’ pattern for the bodice), added cap sleeves, and a zipper opening at the back. I bought my sewing machine around Christmas the previous year, went for a 4 hour course (at the Thrifty Stitcher) to learn how to thread the machine, how to make basic stitches and made a pillow case the following spring, and made that dress at the end of that summer. Did I mention that all the pattern drafting, cutting and sewing was done in about 10 hours, right before I was heading to the airport to fly to Budapest. I can still remember that feeling of listening to jazz and fitting the toille (unbelievable, but I made one!) to my DIY dressmaker’s dummy, with puffy, tired eyes and a smile on my face as I was showing the results to my mum, and thinking that this is how I always wanted to feel. It did not get as much attention as I expected, as it wasn’t my birthday party you see…, but I felt like a million dollars wearing it!

TheSecretCostumier - Red backless dress front

TheSecretCostumier - Red backless dress back

TheSecretCostumier - Red backless dress lining

That’s how not to line a dress

TheSecretCostumier - Red backless dress inside

Seam allowance? What seam allowance?

    It is now resting disassembled in my scrap fabric box, as after taking 2 proper dressmaking courses last year, I just couldn’t bear to look at the inside of it. Apparently the one thing I didn’t care/know about was the seam allowance and the importance of seam finishes at the time. I guess this is why I’m obsessed with how my garments look from the both sides now.

    Having finished the kimono dress (which I can’t wait to show you!) that was built in a similarly instinctive method, without a real pattern, but to a much better quality, I think my advice is to feel free to set the bar high, and aim to do the best work you can with your current abilities. In return you will not only learn tons by making mistakes (because you will make mistakes, I can promise that), but will also find out what techniques you don’t know of. What’s the worst that  can happen anyway? If you screw up something big time, you can always make a patchwork of that amazing fabric, no? 🙂

(Sorry about the image quality, they were taken before I learned that Photoshop won’t make a nice picture out of a rubbish photo.)

Image source: Red Lanvin dress, all other images are mine

From scratch

That backless dress

Drumrolls please…Here is the backless dress that I wrote about previously.TheSecretCostumier-backless dress front TheSecretCostumier-backless dress backI bought this fabric to make harem pants out of it, but changed my mind and used a very simple pattern from Burda to make a dress instead. As I was playing around with the fastenings (the zipper broke the moment I finished inserting it) I realized that it was too dull the way it was, so I cut triangles out of the back part and made it into a backless dress. inserted an elastic waistband and a button holds the whole thing tight on my back.

I haven’t worn it yet, since I didn’t really feel like wearing heels in this very hot weather, but I definitely should as the fabric is very light, so it really is a great summer dress.

From scratch

The birth of a(nother) backless dress

Even though there is nothing easier to wear and make than a dress, I constantly find myself redesigning the ones I sew from scratch so that they turn out to be sexy, but VERY-hard-to-put-together backless dresses.

I got this blue fabric to make harem pants of it, but soon realized that:

  1.  there is a reason why I don’t have any navy blue trousers;
  2.  it would look cheap made of this wrinkled fabric.

So I took some paper with me to the sewing class that I’m taking (maybe more on this later?) and copied an extremely simple dress pattern from one of the Burdastyle magazines lying around. It was simple as it only consists of 5 major parts (2 of them are the squares that make the skirt up).

Image source: Burda Magazine 2010/11

But how does a rather boring classic dress turn out to be a hopefully head turning backless dress one might ask…

Well, once you try it on you just start playing with it. You cinch in the waist here, pull the skirt up there, and the next thing you know you’ve replaced the zipper with an elastic band and cut out the back part almost completely. Obviously the fact that the zip broke the moment I tried to pull it up speeded up this process.TheSecretCostumier - backless dress previewAt least I knew it then and there that there is no way I am using another zipper in this dress, and probably saved myself a lot of time as it is very unlikely to arrange a zip in a way that it can hold up the upper part of the dress from below my waist. Or so I think with my very basic engineering skills.