Saturday, December 8, 2018

A Red Wool Dress

Wool is one of my favorite materials to work with. Yet, until a month or so ago, I never really considered making myself any modern, everyday, clothes out of wool. With the exception of the one pair of pants I made at the beginning of this year (and now wear regularly I might add), I tend to save any wool I acquire for one of two things:
  1. Historical clothing
  2. Coats

That changed this fall when the idea for a modern wool dress entered my mind.

As I may have mentioned, a while back my aunt gifted me a box of wool she picked up at an estate sale. A box full of wool - coat weight wools, dress weight wools, and in between weight wools. Larger yardages, and smaller yardages. Plaid wools and solid colored wools. Blue wools, gray wools, green wools, brown wools, and two yards of dress-weight red wool. Beautiful red wool. Really beautiful red wool. Red wool which needed to become a new winter dress for me.

A new winter dress to wear for the opening night of "A Christmas Carol" - the play my younger siblings are performing in, and I costumed.

So, there's the short version of how this dress came to be, now here's the long version:

As mentioned, I have this box full of wool. After admiring and petting all the different wools in the box multiple times, the thought entered my head that I could make myself a nice winter dress out of a piece of wool - why not?

A red wool dress to wear all winter long, it would be fabulous.

That's how the idea began. I wanted a dress out of that red wool, I just had to figure out what it would look like.

Now, I had only two yards of the red wool, which is enough for a dress, but not a crazy elaborate dress. Of course, the only designs I had in mind fell on the elaborate side of the scale, not the "two yards of fabric" side of the scale. Thus, the next time Joann's had a pattern sale, I went in and looked through the pattern book, hoping some fabric conservative dress design would catch my eye.

Inspiration struck when I came across Simplicity 8543. The curved waistband and sleeve flounces appealed to me - as did the fact this was a "perfect fit" pattern, meaning in included different bodice front pattern pieces for B, C, D, and even DD size cups.
What didn't appeal to me was the straight skirt, but I knew that would be an easy problem to fix!

So, I bought the pattern, brought it home, and there it sat, waiting to be used while I continued to work on Christmas Carol costumes. Would my red wool dress be done for me to wear opening night of the play? I didn't know. What I did know was all the costumes needed to be done by opening night, so my red wool dress would have to wait.

And, with Christmas right around the corner, and Christmas gifts to be made, the red wool dress might have waited indefinitely (even after I finished the costumes), had it not been for a post I happened to see on Facebook. A post mentioning the Little Red Dress Challenge - hosted by The Twilight Stitcher and Rosabella Angelica.

The point of this challenge? Make yourself a new red dress for the Christmas season and share it on instagram the week of December 1-9 using the hashtag #thelittlereddressproject. This was just the push I needed to actually make my red dress. The timing was perfect. The challenge ran from the first through the ninth, and opening night of A Christmas Carol happened to be the seventh. I had my fabric. I had my design. I would have my new red wool dress to wear opening night and share as part of the challenge. It was happening.

Once the play costumes themselves were done, I took a break to cut out my dress before beginning Christmas presents. I cut out bodice view B - the option with the flounced sleeves, then I took the rest of the fabric I had and squeezed a 6-panel, 3/4 circle skirt out of it - using the skirt pattern I drafted for this dress (also made from only 2 yards of fabric). Circle skirts are usually great fabric hogs, but this knee-length paneled skirt can actually be squeezed out of a relatively small amount of fabric!

Then I cut the dress lining out of a cotton/poly blend lawn I keep on hand for dress linings- it's lightweight, soft, and slippery. A bit of a pain to work with, but perfect for dress linings and much nicer than the all polyester lining fabric from Joann's.

Once both wool and lining were cut out, I quickly sewed up the bodice lining to check fit prior to sewing my wool. I tried the lining on, discovered a couple minor fitting changes I needed to make, and decided to add underarm gussets for a better range of motion in the sleeves. I implemented these changes and sewed up the dress.

Then I had to decide how I wanted to hem the skirt and the sleeve flounces. Turn up twice and stitch? face with bias tape? I was leaning toward the bias facing option when I remembered I had some silk crepe that exactly matched the color of the wool. I'd ordered it online for another project - and when it came it turned out to not be the right color for that project at all - it was much too bright of a red. However, the way it matched my red dress wool? Amazing! I couldn't have planned a match that great!

So clearly, I had to use the beautifully matching silk for something on my dress. Thus, I decided to bind the hems with bias strips of red silk.

The matching color and mixture of textures is absolutely fabulous!

Finally, to tie the whole look together, I also made a matching red silk belt, using a vintage covered belt kit, acquired at a thrift store several weeks ago.

I carefully followed the instructions on the back of the package for covering the belt and buckle, and was surprised by how easily it came together. And the finished result was just what I'd hoped it would be!

The silk bound hems and covered belt were just the finishing touches this dress needed!

My red wool dress was done in time to wear opening night, so wear it I did!

The play came off beautifully and Mr. Scrooge and Mrs. Fezziwig performed admirably! Two more performances to go, then I'll share a bit about the costume pieces I've made for this show and not yet blogged - such as Mrs. Fezziwig's wrapper and Scrooge's fabulous dressing gown! (and maybe even Marley's chain coat!)

Tonight, I'm going to go enjoy the play again (and hope no costuming emergencies arise!), and since I wore my new red wool dress last night, I'll be wearing my green silk circle skirt outfit tonight. Between this dress, and that outfit, I'd say I'm pretty well covered as far as festive winter clothes go!


  1. I love how it turned out! Beautiful!!

  2. It is absolutely gorgeous- what a work of art you made!

  3. Wonderful! Love how all the moments and fabrics came together.
    I need to make some winter dresses. When my sister came to visit just over a week ago we went to the quilt shop. I bought some wool, but quite different than I would usually choose. It is a tartan (plaid) but has pink and grey and black with some white lines also running through it.
    If this back starts behaving better I might get it done before the end of winter!

    1. Thank you! That fabric sounds beautiful!! I'm a sucker for plaid :)

  4. I love this! The mix of fabrics works beautifully.