When I design ranges for big companies part of the job is presenting the range at an initial ideas stage. You come in with a bunch of drawings and fabric swatches and proceed to be grilled about every decision. Every idea needs to be backed up with why it should be done, how much money it’s projected to make and why time and money should be invested into making that particular idea come to fruition. Depending on the size of the range you need to be prepared to do that for over 100 pieces. It’s utterly nervewracking and stressful but it’s also a necessary part of the job. It’s one of the ways you weed out the good from the bad, learn to take on others perspectives and realise that not everything you design is going to be amazing or the correct fit for the time and place.
I find this somewhat clinical approach is super helpful to my sewing as I enjoy the process so much more than focusing on the end result.
Recently I had great fun in pushing myself recently to make a bridesmaid dress for a friends wedding. When I got a late night text the day before the wedding from the beautiful bride explaining that they decided to change the bridesmaid dresses and weren’t going to use the one I made I said to her, as long as you are happy that’s all that matters.
When I saw the Bridesmaids the next day at the ceremony it was 100% the right decision to change the dresses. With a natural linen back drop, wild roses and Australian natives in pale creams and pinks the bridesmaids looked picture perfect in their blush coloured dresses. Totally the right choice for the occasion. Sadly I don’t have any photos as it was an “unplugged” wedding with no phones or cameras and everyone told to just enjoy and have a great time. It was utterly fabulous night filled with friends, fun and laughter even if we don’t have the pics to prove it.
The original bridesmaid dress was a deep wine coloured French lace over silk. The lace was from Studio Fabrics who have a store in the city and another at Cabramatta, highly recommended for gorgeous lace, silks and lovely staff. The silk was from Pitt Trading and had the softest handfeel to it.
The lace was 170cm wide with a double scallop edge so it was quite economical to cut the dress from as you could utilise so much of the scallop. The style was a boat neck fitted dress with a knee length skirt and tiny cap sleeves. I used Vogue 8766 as my base block.
I really wanted to achieve a skirt hem with no seams, the lace had a little scallop, big scallop design to it, adding seams would interrupt the flow of the design.
So I eliminated the side seams of the pattern. I placed the front and back patterns together, overlapped at the side seams where the seam allowance would normally be and traced off one continuous pattern from that. The top of the side seam was turned into a long curving dart so you still got the hip shaping despite the lack of side seam.
I made a toile from calico and used that to do the fitting. I transferred all the fitting marks to the calico and then cut a new calico version which I then used as the final pattern.
At the centre back I joined the hem by overlapping the lace and using a small zig zag all the way up to the base of the invisible zip. Creating an amlost invisible centre back seam.
The silk underneath was fully bagged out with a matching silk lining which joined at certain points to ensure it would sit flat and not cause any movement while being worn.
The sleeves were small with just an inverted pleat at the top of the sleeve head to allow for movement.
Now there is no denying I was super stressed making this dress, I felt the need to make it perfect and be so beautiful for my friends, but the fact that it wasn’t worn doesn’t even worry me. I got to use some techniques I don’t use in my regular sewing, had fun working with utterly divine French Lace, conquered my fear of lace overlay plus silk plus invisible zip (which honestly I have been avoiding for like forever in case I made a mistake). It was good to push myself and I’m glad they found the perfect dresses at the last moment.
Dress Pattern: Vogue 8766
Alterations: eliminated side seams of skirt, cropped sleeve length, fitted to a size 10, 5 foot 11 bridesmaid