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

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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

The A-line skirt is finally ready!

    Here comes the A-line skirt that I made a few weeks ago. I used the pattern for the shorter skirt that can be found in the May 2012 issue of Burda Magazine.  TheSecretCostumier - A-line skirt Burda photo1 TheSecretCostumier - A-line skirt Burda TheSecretCostumier - A-line skirt pattern

    We were lucky to have a sunny bank holiday weekend here in London, so I could play dress-up outside. The buttons are not quite on the right place, hence the little hole, but I just couldn’t be bothered to move them as of yet. The grey and denim tops are my sister’s, and the striped crop top is something I cut-off a few weeks ago when I couldn’t find anything to wear for a night out. Have a look!

TheSecretCostumier - A-line skirt with grey top TheSecretCostumier - A-line skirt with denim shirt TheSecretCostumier - A-line skirt with striped crop top    As you might remember, I had some issues with the look of the inside of the skirt, but since I restarted the whole thing, I managed to make it pretty enough. I used French seams, a faced hem and fabric covered snap-fasteners instead of the buttons suggested by Burda. I am rather pleased with the results, although the hemline is still far from perfect. Maybe next time…

From scratch

1 skirt = 3 easily avoidable mistakes

    I guess the big lesson of this project was to plan my steps ahead…and I don’t mean the outfit ideas. I bought this fabric a year ago, while  I was attending a sewing course in Budapest, for about £2. I was planning to make a skater dress from it (that’s the basic idea every time I randomly buy fabric 😉 )  but 2 weeks ago, inspired by the amazing (& waaaay too short) sewing competition/series on BBC, The Great British Sewing Bee, and by some of these images below, I started sewing this skirt from Burda.

TheSecretCostumier - A-line skirtsImage sources:1., 2., 3.

    It could have been finished in a couple of hours, as it is a relatively easy pattern, consisting of 8 skirt panels and 2 pockets, but I discovered some problems that could have led to having a very “handmade” looking, rather unprofessional garment. So here are my mistakes, they might seem elementary, but I wish someone told me these before.

1Mistake: Choosing a seam finish method AFTER the pieces are sewn together. The Burda patterns have no instructions on seam finishes, so I ended up having to choose between zig-zag stitching or Hong-Kong binding 16 (70 cm long) seam allowances, as folding and stitching the seam allowances worked out to be too thin and curled up.

Solution: French seams. Obviously for this, I had to unpick the whole thing, it took ages, but it was worth it. It looks very professional on the inside, and if you use 1.5 cm seam allowance when cutting the pattern out, you’ll have enough space to comfortably do this.


2Mistake: Making a hem with 4 centimetres of fabric by folding it once, leaves you with loads of excess fabric on the inside. Hemming isn’t supposed to be a big deal, but I’ve learned the difference between turning up a centimetre of your skirt and 4 times that much the hard way, when I ended up trying to tuck all that fabric under the straight line I was supposed to sew on the  the right side, and a mess on the inside.

Solution: Face the hem. I mean cut a facing to the same size as the bottom of the assembled skirt, and sew it on wrong sides together, just as you would on a neckline. If you use a zig-zag stitch to finish the seam on the facing, and measure it properly, you will end up with an even and neat hem inside out, and the top-stitching will be no problem either. (I was trying to be way too pedant, so used a single fold here, and ended up with not so perfect results, but I guess I can live with that.)



Mistake: Not enough thread to finish up a project. This is a no brainer, I know, but if you “impulse buy” a piece of fabric and some thread together, you might end up making something totally different out of it than what you had in mind at the time of purchase, and end up with less thread than needed. Honestly, finding out that my regular fabric shop doesn’t have any thread even close to this shade, half way through sewing, was anything but fun.

Solution: Uhm…Make sure you have enough thread before you start a project?! Of course you can cheat a little if you can’t find more matching thread by using any other colour on hand for seams that will be hidden (like the inner seams of the French seams), so that you can leave enough matching thread for the decorative or visible stitches.

The skirt is now ready, I’m just waiting for the sun to return, so that I can take it out and show you and the World the result, so watch this space!


From scratch

Learning when to give up

    Actually I learned when to restart. So here is this dress, that’s been stuck in my mind for months now. First I kept putting off getting started with it, then I realized how hard it is to work with the fabric, then I realized that I made a mistake choosing the pattern, as it has way too many seams that will be on show. So even though I figured out a way to finish the seam allowances with the machine (still there is some swearing during the process, but it’s quicker than hand sewing at least), I was just not happy with the result. I kind of messed up the Hong Kong binding, and that bias strip is unravelling too, so on one sunny, cold morning I just decided to give up. Give in, start it all over again.TheSecretCostumier - Learning when to give up

TheSecretCostumier - Learning when to give up TheSecretCostumier - Learning when to give up TheSecretCostumier - Learning when to give up TheSecretCostumier - Learning when to give upI should have known that it was a bad idea when I realized that the sleeves on the Dior dress are cut with the bodice, but I just thought I can make it work my own way. My biggest fear is giving up, as according to 66% of my family that is what I usually do (btw they are right), so to prove them wrong, I developed this habit of going through with whatever I started, even if the end results are less than desirable. Not this time though.

    Tomorrow I’m buying some more fabric (I might go crazy and buy a different colour, as I’m starting to get sick of the whole project), and will look for a simple pattern, or just make one myself. Oh, and I will use French seams wherever I can, as well as use the “Narrow zig-zag hem” method to finish the sleeves, as it seems to be working.

    I’m wondering if it’s just me, or if there are others struggling to give up on a project when it clearly doesn’t work too?!

Images: All by moi.