"The brown dress" Such a catchy title, eh? So creative I am ;)
I am open to another name for it by the way...
I realized that I mentioned this dress on Monday in my goals, and figured it needed an explanation.
So, currently I am working on this pattern, Vogue 8728. I started it back in September to wear to a wedding. I have seen this sewn up on some blogs, but after seeing Casey's version, I was convinced I needed the pattern. I picked it up at the next pattern sale, after which it sat around in my pattern stash for a few months. Or perhaps over a year. Then when looking for a pattern this August for the dress for the wedding, I picked it up again. Crepe de chine was one of the suggested fabrics, which I just happened to have in my stash. It has been there for...ahem...three years. It was from my first Mood purchase in Los Angeles. Brown silk — perfect for a fall wedding!
Silk is a little bit intimidating as a fabric to sew. It is slippery as all get out and shifts like there is no tomorrow. But, if you have ever worn silk, you know that it is worth all the effort. To prevent slipping I tried a tip that I got form someone's blog (or sewing book? I can't remember) that if you put down tissue paper under the silk will catch on the fiber of the paper and not slip as much. I carefully taped paper to my cutting surface and cut the silk out. This seemed to work somewhat, the silk still shifted slightly and I spent a lot of time checking (and rechecking!) the grain line to make sure it was straight before I cut. It was not a perfect or foolproof technique, but better than doing nothing. I think Sunni posted another technique the other day from a blogger of sandwiching the silk between paper and cutting out, which I might try next time.
Before the arduous process of cutting silk, I did sew up a quick muslin to check the fit of the top of the dress. I know some people think a muslin is too much to do for every project, since you are basically sewing two versions (or maybe more!) of the same dress, but I think it is helpful and sometime you don't need to do the whole dress. I knew the skirt, which was just as a simple gathered skirt wouldn't be a problem, so I only did a muslin of the bodice. Especially since I was sewing with expensive fabric, I didn't want to get it wrong! I used cheap fabric laying in my stash to do the first test run. This muslin would help me figure out, since I am smaller framed, if a) this look would even be flattering on me, and b) was the amount of gathering too much for my smaller bust. I didn't want to it to look too full and poofy, or (maybe worse?) saggy and sad. Some other bloggers solved the excess gathering by cutting the upper bodice piece (the part with the gathering) a size smaller than the lower bodice piece, therefore reducing the amount of gathering. Since I was already cutting the smallest size, this was not going to work for me.
Once I put on the muslin, I thought that it might just work as drafted, with no altering of the gathers. It didn't seem too much on either side of my worries, and I was putting my money on the light soft folds of gathered silk (not the cheap polyester I used) to be the highlight of the bodice. I did realize with the muslin that the waistline was sitting a bit too high up and decide to lengthened the lower bodice by a half inch or so. While I was adding length to the lower bodice piece I toyed with removing some of the gathering from the upper-bodice pattern piece. Ahhh...indecision. I even went so far as to redraft the pattern, which was just taking out a wedge of the gathering but eventually scrapped it before cutting and decided to with my first gut feeling, which was to do it as originally drafted. My fingers are still crossed ;)
Since I was working with such a lightweight fabric and I wanted the lower bodice to have some structure, I stabilized it with silk organza, as some others have done. Basically I hand-stitched a layer of silk organza to the lower bodice and continued on as if it was just one piece.
A note about gathering silk: I almost changed to cotton when I had the mental image of gathering silk. Sewing two lines of thread on the delicate fabric, and then pulling to get them to softly gather filled me with a little dread. I thought it would be a nightmare with breaking thread, fraying silk, or worse, even bigger holes in the fabric. I am not quite sure where this fear came from? Regardless, after this project I was pleasantly surprised. It really wasn't that bad. And the gathers look so pretty in silk!
Check out all my gathering glory :)
I tried on the bodice today and it looks good even though it is still in mid-process. The gathers look lovely and are balanced on my frame. The neckline is a bit wider that I remember in the muslin, so I may have to put in lingerie-straps to hide my bra, but I won't know if it all works out for sure until I finish the bodice completely. What I need to do this week is slip-stitch the binding to the neckline (one of my goals!) and then I can move on to lower half of the dress. Hopefully it will be done soon so I can show it off!
Stay tuned.... :)