Balancing a full time career and a lively social calendar is mighty task. So big that I could break a nail. One minute, I’m immersed in a professional meeting and the next, I’m at a cocktail hour, garden party, boozy brunch or romantic rendezvous. How do I dress for it all without smudging my mascara or creasing my clothing? With a swanky, self-stitched, above-the-knee frocktail. Puh-lease! I’m kidding! My social calendar involves mostly hanging out with cats, Basil and Sage, and my most romantic rendezvous has been with my Bernina 560. My grandmother says your twenties are the best years of your life.
The real reason I conceived this dress? Yes, I gave birth to her and I shall name her Indigo Miller. Since the beginning of this year, I’ve been immersed in lingerie sewing, but kept this project on the back burner. It was nice progressing at a lazy pace with no finish date. Then, I ran out of elastic. How did I run out of the one, if not the most essential lingerie trim? Who knows, but it happened and I didn’t have 1/4”, 3/8” or 1/2” plush elastic. So while I waited for more to arrive in the mail – my local sewing stores don’t sell it – Indigo Miller was brought from the back to the front burner. I didn’t like sewing her at first. I kept thinking about lingerie. Now that I finished, I realized it was just what I needed – a taste of garment sewing.
I bought this fabric at Jomar’s over a year ago. I don’t have a stash, but I have a few fabrics that I saw, purchased and kept. I almost cut into it on many occasions, and each time I came close, I thought, “No, no, no… this fabric is meant for something else. Something better.”
I drafted the bodice patterns from my sloper. It was an easy alteration to transform the darts into princess seams. If you’re interested in doing the same, here is a tutorial. Katy’s princess seam placement is different from mine, but the concept is the same.
The sleeve was a bastard to fit. On the muslin, which was the same fabric as the final dress, there was excess fabric at the front sleeve cap. Here is a glamorous selfie taken early in the morning showing it. Initially, I thought it was the width of the sleeve cap, but after measuring 7 ½” at 3” down from shoulder tip, I realized the problem was not there. That number is close to my standard. It was the front armhole that was causing the problem. I wrote about the relationship between across shoulder and across chest/back in this post. Basically, across chest should be approximately 1 ½” less than across shoulders (3/4” on each armhole).
When I was transfering the darts into princess seams, for some reason, I altered the armhole shape on my sloper. I don’t remember why I did it – it was a late night and I wasn’t thinking straight. Fixing it was easy. I scooped out the armhole, making it more curved so that it matched the shape on my sloper. Once I did that, it “pulled” the excess fabric, if that makes sense (if it doesn’t, let me know in the comments below and I’ll try to explain better). The pattern correction is to the left. The sleeve is still not 100% – I still think the cap needs more height – but it’s wearable and a much better than the first version.
The skirt is a rectangle; shirring ratio is 1 5/8: 1.
image below shows muslin
Last year, I took Susan Khalje’s class, The Couture Dress, on Craftsy. Fabulous class! I went back to it for this project, using some of her dress making techniques. The fabric is somewhat fluid, which was great for the shirred skirt, but the bodice needed some structure. So, I underlined with a stable cotton. To give the skirt some more oomph, I underlined it with silk organza. I also used pinking shears to reduce bulk at the princess seams. I rarely, if ever, use them, but thought why the hell not?
Image on the left below shows the right side of the unfinished dress. The lining was the only thing left to add. Shows how the selvedge of the fabric and the collar were applied to the neckline. Image on the right shows the wrong side of the unfinished dress. Again, the lining was the only thing left to add. Shows how the princess seams were finished using pinking shears. Please don’t mind the orange stay stitching at the armhole! I had to do some slight reshaping after it had been sewn because it stretch out, so the stitching is not equidistant from the edge.
My favorite feature of the dress is the trimming – it’s actually the selvedge of the fabric! I applied it to the bottom hem of the skirt and neckline. Using it at the neck had the added bonus of stabilizing it.
The collar and sleeve bands are 3” strips cut on the bias and manually frayed using the same technique in my reverse hong kong bias binding tutorial.
First image below shows the right side of the finished dress. See how the selvedge is slightly peeking out between the collar and the lining? You can also see how the edge of the collar is frayed. Over time, it will fray even more. The second image below shows the trimming/selvedge at the bottom hem of the skirt.
I’m a proponent of the Wardrobe Architect. Being conscious of what I make and buy and how it fits into my closet is important to me 99% of the time. But sometimes, we make nonessential purchases. Target, WAWA, RiteAid, CVS… anyone guilty like I am? We also sometimes sew nonessential garments. So, I currently don’t have an occasion to wear Indigo Miller, but that’s what Tinder is for. Swipe to the right boys!