Thursday, February 6, 2020

The Design-it-as-You-Go Dress of Blue Striped Taffeta and Navy Crepe

I had approximately a day and a half at home between my trip to Uganda and my family's trip to Florida. During this time, I sewed. No surprise there, it's me we're talking about.

When I arrived home Tuesday afternoon, I had a vague idea of possibly making myself a dress to wear to my cousin's wedding. However, it didn't take me long to abandon that idea. I decided I didn't need the pressure of making a new dress for a specific event (while jet lagged) when I had a closet full of perfectly good dresses which would work for the wedding.

Thus, I pulled this dress out of my closet, ironed it, and packed it for the wedding. That done, I went to the sewing room just to have fun. I went with no specific plan in mind, except that I wanted to make a dress. Not a dress I'd been planning for months, where the fabric was already earmarked for a specific pattern. No, more of a design it as you go dress. A play with fabric and see what happens dress. I was going into this with no fabric picked out. No pattern chosen. I was going into my sewing room just to see what I could come up with.

I went into my sewing room and began looking through my fabric bins to see what fabric appealed to me in the moment. Pretty quickly I was reminded of the sheer volume of fabric I own. I was going to need to narrow down my options or I'd be picking nothing! Thus, I decided "No Cottons". Now I love cotton, and the bulk of my fabric stash is cotton, so this rule both pushed me out of my comfort zone and narrowed down my choices considerably - just what I needed to actually get something done.

With the "no cotton" rule in effect, I still had several pieces of fabric calling to me, but finally I narrowed it down to one specific piece of blue striped polyester taffeta.

It was a remnant of fabric, less than a yard long, which I picked up at a thrift store last fall, just because it was pretty. When I pulled it out this time, I decided it would be perfect for the bodice of a dress. I just needed another fabric to pair with it for the skirt.

A bit more digging through fabric bins unearthed a piece of navy blue polyester crepe, just under two yards long, left over from making this skirt. This stuff is gorgeously flow-y and I knew it would make a fabulous skirt, contrasting perfectly with the stiff taffeta of the bodice. Now, what pattern would I be using to create this masterpiece with?

I went to my pattern dresser and opened up the top drawer - full to the brim of dress patterns, and began looking through the offerings. As it was January, and there was snow on the ground, I decided whatever dress I made needed to have sleeves, which narrowed down my choices a bit - as did the fact I had less than 3 yards of fabric to work with here. With these parameters in mind, Butterick B6484 - a Gertie Pattern with a dropped waist - appealed to me.

The pattern was pulled out of the drawer and the bodice was cut out of my blue taffeta.

The crepe was set aside for later and I proceeded to sew up the bodice while brainstorming ideas for the skirt.

I finished the bodice, tried it on, and ran into an issue. It fit, mostly, however I should have done some sort of a wide shoulder/broad back adjustment because it was most certainly too tight above the bust. Also, I had a very poor range of motion so something had to be done with the sleeves.

To "fix" the issues (aka, make the bodice wearable) I just cut the neckline lower all the way around until it sat flat and there was no more strange pulling, and changed the previously square neckline to a v-neck. To give myself a good range of motion I added underarm gussets, allowing me to move my arms in all directions and even raise them above my head without pulling the entire bodice up!

Bodice issues sorted out, it was on to the skirt! I decided I wanted a handkerchief hem so the skirt is basically one large square of fabric. The front is a triangle, the back is a triangle, and there are pockets in the side seams.

With the scraps left over from the skirt, I made sleeve ruffles.

I do love sleeve ruffles!

A lapped zipper in the back and the dress was done!

I liked it, but it felt like there was something missing.

I hung the finished dress on my sewing room door and headed off to Florida, figuring I'd address the "something missing" when I got home.

A few days after returning home, I was re-watching an episode of Downton Abby (either in season 3 or season 4, I don't remember now), admiring the 1920's fashion. The low sashes between the skirt and the bodice of the drop waist dresses really caught my eye, and it hit me - my dress needed a sash!

So, when I had a few extra moments in the sewing room I made a nice wide sash out of some gold silky-feeling fabric (left over from a commission years ago) and a slide buckle from my stash.

The sash was just the finishing touch the dress needed - suddenly I loved it!

This dress is different than anything else in my closet, and was so much fun to make!

It was a day in the sewing room, between trips, well spent. I should do creative, spontaneous, sewing projects more often!


  1. That is such a fun method! I have tried to be spontaneous, but I always get stuck in thinking everything through to perfection. MY hat off to you for pulling it off so well. Your dress is lovely both in coordination and design, and I believe the sash is my favorite feature. Such a grand swoosh!

  2. Beautiful spontaneous creation!