Monday, August 6, 2012

The Boho-Chic Ann Arbor Sun Dress - Completed!

The little taste of a photo I gave you back in April was a tiny piece of this gorgeous dress. I was happy with this dress every step of the way. It's a total Frankenstein of a dress. I used the bodice from Version C of New Look 6557, the midriff band from Simplicity 2886, and a skirt I cobbled together on my own.

So, in the style of Sew Weekly, the facts:
Fabric:   upcycled polyester from a maxi dress, underlined with white cotton batiste
Pattern:   New Look 6557, Simplicity 2886, self-drafted
Year:   Modern
Notions:   32" petersham ribbon from A Fashionable Stitch (it says charcoal, but to my eye, it looks more dark lavender... maybe I'm a bit colorblind?), 12" purple zipper
Time to complete: 15 1/2 hours
First worn:   June
Wear again?   Yes, at least once a week since I finished it!
Total cost:   ~$21

The fabric came from a dress I bought at a little store downtown Ann Arbor called Orchid Lane (the warehouse, where everything is $15 or less), on one of the two or three days last summer when the heat was so oppressive I wanted to dive into a pool of ice. The fabric was so light and airy, and even though the dress itself was hideous, I bought it anyway with the intention of tearing it apart and upcycling the fabric. I wish I had a before photo for you. It was a maxi tube dress, with a widely-shirred cheap shiny black polyester bodice and this lovely fabric attached. I cut away that cheap black poly as soon as I got the dress home, and then the rest of the fabric sat in my stash until last week.

A couple of months ago, my sister gave me a bunch of her old clothes. She's purging her rather immense closet, and I'm the lucky beneficiary of said purge. Except that many (read "almost all") of those clothes weren't made to fit my body. My favorite dress in the pile I brought home was an adorable black and white dress. Minor problem: the dress was made for a girl with a B-cup, not my rather ample bosom (I don't know why, but I love finding opportunities to say "ample bosom." Maybe it has something to do with those romance novels my friends and I used to giggle over back in 10th-grade chemistry class).

Refusing to accept the inevitability of not owning said dress, I turned to my pattern stash and discovered that one of the bodice options for New Look 6557 (my blue daisy sheet dress) is almost an exact duplicate of my sister's dress's bodice. I thought it would be perfect for the summer and pulled out the pretty purple fabric I ripped off that ugly Orchid Lane dress last year.

As soon as I pulled it out, I remembered that that fabric is super flimsy and tears/pulls really easily. This was the first opportunity I've had to use Sullivan's fabric stabilizer, and I have to say, I'm totally addicted. I'm going to use it liberally every time I stitch up anything even remotely slippery. :) I also underlined all the dress pieces with white cotton batiste for extra strength.

I purchased Susan Kalje's The Couture Dress course from Craftsy last month, and I was watching it while I worked on this dress. It had more than a small influence on me. I hand-basted all of the underlining and stitched the seam allowances down by hand. "Control" became my watchword for this dress.

I loved the border print, and I wanted to use it in more places than just the hem, so I cut pieces from the top border for the midriff and the straps. The pattern calls for narrow ribbon for the straps, but I wanted more coverage, and I also didn't want it to look cheap, which I think ribbon would have done. After I cut, stitched, and pressed the straps, I found the stitches pulling on that stupid, flimsy fabric, the fabric wouldn't press properly, and I realized that I hadn't even considered underlining the straps. Silly.

My solution: dig through my stash in search of the 3/4" petersham ribbon I bought from A Fashionable Stitch. It matched perfectly, and I hand-stitched it to the backs of the straps. It makes the straps themselves a little more substantial, too. I didn't machine stitch them because I wanted the stitching to be invisible on the front (can you see it? I can, but only from about 12" away!), and I didn't want to put any more stress on the fabric than I already had. Now the straps are super strong, and will definitely last. And they're pretty on both sides as well. :) See the difference in how it lays? So much more body and less puckering!

I love this dress. It only has one problem, and it's one that I kind of knew about from the beginning. That flimsy fabric isn't going to last very long, even with meticulous hand-stitching and cotton batiste underlining and petersham ribbon stabilizing the straps. It's already starting to fray at the waist gathers, but I intend to wear this dress until I completely wear it out, I love it so much.

Rather than wait for my new sun dress to wear out, I am actually working on my next project. We're pretty much fully moved into the house, and I have another new dress on my sewing table. All it needs is neckline and armhole finishing and a hem, and it'll be set to wear (and post)! Knowing me, that'll take more than just one day, but I apologize for my long internet absence, and promise some more frequent posting in the months to come.