The birthday dress

    You might have guessed by now, I’m one of those crazy people who get irrationally excited about their birthday. It’s not that I like to be celebrated, and I don’t particularly like getting gifts (unless it’s for no reason), but I like to treat my birthday as my special day. The one day of the year when I notice the small things too and tend to remember most of it even years later. It’s also that one day when I get to be as overdressed as I wish without feeling bad about it. 😉 So this year the plan is to get this vintage dress out of the box, make it into a pretty little cocktail dress, go to Frank’s to watch the sun go down, and go home dancing?!

TheSecretCostumier - Birthday dress it is

     I bought this crazy 80’s grandma’s summer dress a few years ago in a charity shop in Budapest. I really loved the print and was planning on making something unexpected from it, but have always been too scared to cut into it. Practically it is still intact, but the other day in the middle of my 18 hour-long procrastination marathon, I picked the dress up and decided to just go (relatively) simple and make something out of it. Right after this, I sat down to sketch how it’s going to look, then one thing led to another and I made the below little illustration in a mere 8 hours.

     I probably could have actually finished the dress in that time, but what the hell, I’ve learned how to colour the dress bit with a pattern instead of a solid colour in Photoshop, so now I am basically unstoppable when it comes to future garment planning. I might as well just give up sewing and draw clothes on my super realistic little body from now on… Anyway, here is the master plan:

TheSecretCostumier - Birthday dress design

   I think I will use the same pattern as for the backless dress from Burdastyle, and I might take the chance to try to use boning to hold the whole thing tight on my bust. I probably have to ditch the buttons on the back altogether and use an invisible zip instead, for similar reasons. I already feel a little less excited now that there’s a plan and all, but one day I’ll surely make it!to be continued

Image of Frank’s found here.

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