Sunday, September 25, 2011

The making of the Not Sorbetto tea dress

So, as with all things I make, there is a story (people who are mean would say a long drawn-out saga) to this dress.

My brother is getting married in a couple of weeks in Brisbane. I wanted to wear something nice, given the dress code is "cocktail" but I also wanted to wear something in cotton. Sure I could go and buy a nice frock - but everything in the shops for the spring racing carnivals or a cocktail party is polyester or a derivative thereof. And I don't like wearing polyester, especially not on a warm Brisbane day.

One Sunday morning a couple of weeks ago I was reading the newspaper and there was a whole page devoted to tea dresses in the fashion section. And I thought "Michelle, you can totes make one of those".

So I went straight to the stash cupboard, and pulled out this prized length of embroidered cotton from Tessuti.

Fabric for the real dress

Then I went through my enormous collection of patterns. And came up with zilch. Seems there are few tea dress style patterns out there for bigger girls, and if there are, I certainly haven't found them.

I'd just had great success with making my Not Sorbetto top, also known around some parts as Simplicity 2938. And I came up with my second not-so-brilliant idea of the morning. "Michelle, you can totes make up your own pattern and base the bodice on the Not Sorbetto. Because you are a freaking genius. Yes you are."

I knew this could would all end in tears, so I decided to start my design using some nice patchwork cotton from Spotlight that I had in my stash. If it worked, I'd have myself a wearable muslin, I thought.

I cut and sewed the bodice first.

Bodice

Then I had to adjust the seams quite a bit to get the snugness I was wanting in the bodice so that it could take 2 metres of fabric skirt. I also had to shorten the top by about 5 inches so it came to my waistline. I cut two widths of fabric about 25 inches long, sewed them together and attached the resulting skirt to the bodice by gathering it.

The drafting of the dress

Disaster. It didn't look much better with a belt.

The drafting of the dress

While all this was going on and I was despairing my ability to make a wearable muslin without a pattern, there was a Twitter consultation taking place. Several people suggested pleating the skirt. I also wanted to make the bodice shorter, so I did both. Here is a photo with the skirt just pinned to the waist. I'd say "ouch" with all those pins around my belly, but I have no nerve endings in my stomach area anymore and can't feel a thing. Lucky, eh?

The drafting of the dress

I was onto a winner, I thought. So I sewed it all together, inserted a side zipper (my first! I can't believe it took me 20 years!) and wore it today to a birthday celebration - High Tea at the Hyatt.

Self drafted dress

(These photos were taken after High Tea. I am looking very crushed and very cold, mainly because it was FREEZING. Also, I may or may not be in a cucumber sandwich coma.)

Self drafted dress

(I actually wore brown tights to High Tea but took them off for the photos. Fool me.)

Self drafted dress

And a gratuitous photo of my bust pleated neckline, which I am so very proud of.

I cut out the dress for the wedding this morning, and I'll be making that a little longer than this one. However, I'm so happy with this dress that if the black and cream one doesn't work out, I'll be wearing this to the wedding instead. It doesn't scream "cocktail", but it does holler "Michelle", and I'm more than happy with that.

21 comments:

  1. Definite winner - well done you! It looks really nice and springlike (despite the uncooperative weather!)

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  2. Beautiful job. And the cotton you have for the wedding version is very special.

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  3. I love this Michelle! It looks fantastic on you and I'm really looking forward to seeing the black and cream one - what beautiful fabric. Great work with the frankenpatterning!

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  4. What a great save! Looks fantastic! Gathers don't work on me either, and it's only taken 3 dresses for me to realise that! haha! Can't wait to see the 'proper' version as that embroidery is beautiful.

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  5. What a gorgeous dress - you're very clever! It looks beautiful on you. Looking forward to seeing the embroidered version. The scalloped edge will be a lovely feature.

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  6. What a beautiful frock. Looking forward to seeing the next one.

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  7. You are braver than me making up your own pattern and doing it so well.

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  8. I love the dress, your necklace and your shoes too!! Gorgeous!

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  9. Very very nice! Not to mention clever! I love the "muslin" fabric, and the black and White is perfect! I wonder if there is enough to put some pockets in the side seams? Just wee ones, for maybe a hanky and a lippie?

    (and what is it with the abundance of polyester summer dresses and tops? Ugh!)

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  10. I love your dress! The print is lovely - I can't believe this was muslin fabric - and you've done a great job of drafting a dress. It's totally lovely, especially with the necklace. Very entertaining commentary, too.

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  11. lubberly. I was eyeing off that black and cream fabric at tessuti's last year and now I WISH I had got some.

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  12. It's fabulous, and looks great. I agree that this dress is certainly 'dressy' enough to go to a wedding!!

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  13. dude! it is gorgeous! i'm so proud of your (ahem) pleated neckline too!

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  14. It looks fantastic! Thank you so much for showing the process, it gives me hope (as very new to clothes sewing) not to give up at the first disaster!

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  15. As I said yesterday, I love it, and you looked just gorgeous in it. I like the way that the pleats in the skirt sort of reflect the pleats in the bodice. Good luck with the prized fabric - I'm sure it will be stunning.

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  16. Love a happy ending story. Its a gorgeous dress and I also like the behind every gorgeous dress is a tweeting crowd part of the story - you and your support crew deserved the cucumber sandwich afternoon tea. Despite the changeability - love, love, loving Spring.

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  17. Great dress, and the pleating is perfect. So envoius of the High Tea.

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  18. A great story of perseverance with a beautiful ending. Nicely done!

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  19. Fabulous! I love the pleated bodice with the pleated skirt - they are not matching but complementary.

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  20. The dress is stunning Michelle, your persistence really paid off!

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  21. OMG Michelle - genius ! The pleated neckline is lovely ( a personal fave feature) and the box pleat skirt completes it beautifully. The way you've styled it looks great on you even if it was a cold Brissy day ;D

    I admire your sewing abilities, an area I'm not so confident in :)

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