Sunday, July 5, 2009

The house dress, updated

This weekend's project, once I got done wrestling with the cherry dress, was to try to knock off an old favorite. The original dress was from April Cornell, and I've had it for probably 15 years. Really.

I wore it to death when it was new, and then it sat in the closet for a few years, and now I'm back with it, but the wear it's getting these days is more around the house, across the street to the coffee shop in the morning, whenever I don't feel like putting on "real" clothes.

I realized last week that what it's turned into is more or less a house dress. Which made me flinch, because my aunts and my grandmom lived in house dresses and I think of them as shlumpy cotton dresses with cutesy buttons and too much rickrack, but serving basically the same purpose as my dress.

My new Liberty yardage has been sitting on the stash shelf, whispering that it wants to be used. When I decided to try to duplicate the April Cornell dress, I picked my least favorite of the 5 pieces. Which is not to say I don't like it, and I wouldn't have been mad as hell if I'd messed up, but of the 5 it's the one I would cry the least over.

I took the original dress, ironed it and put it on my work table. Then I used way too much tracing paper to trace the shapes of the pattern pieces. The bodice was actually pretty easy - other than the interesting seam shape, the upper bodice is plain. The skirt front is in 3 panels, and the pockets are basted to the side panels and then the pieces are attached. The original pockets were as long as the skirt and had much more gathering, but I was working with the limitations of my fabric and I'm pretty pleased with them.

For the back of the dress, I altered the original because (a) I didn't really want the buttons as I have never in 15 years unbuttoned the original; and (b) I didn't feel like making 12 buttonholes anyway and having to hunt for Liberty-worthy buttons. Besides, it's not the most comfortable dress to sit in or lean back, so I went for ease of duplicatino instead of complete accuracy.

The bodice back was cut on the fold. There's a dart at the waist. The skirt is 2 pieces, with 3 darts on each side to gather in some of the fullness. (Also because I cut the piece way wider than it should have been, but whatever).

The original dress had a neck facing and the armholes were just turned under and stitched. I always hated the facing because it crept, so instead I used the shape of the neckline to make a facing that was about 1" wide and used it as a binding instead. With my leftover fabric I made bias strips and bound the back neckline and the armholes.

All in all, I think it's a pretty good copy of the original. Most of the changes are changes I made deliberately - I wanted it shorter, I did actually want a little less fullness in the skirt, though I would have perferred the pockets to be more like the original

Mario's comment when he saw it (and this is coming from the movie junkie that he is) was that it looked like something Sally Field would have worn in Places in the Heart, which I think means I succeeded on the vintage house dress vibe. Anything else that may have been intended by that comment will be ignored, because I like it and I don't want to run him through the coverstitch.

Hope everyone had a fun and fabric-filled holiday weekend. Back to the real world tomorrow!

7 comments: said...

Run him through the coverstitch! I love it! Ha!

Sew-Ann said...

This is just right for around the house a quick trip around the corner. I should make one since my housedress leaves nothing too the imagination for holes and tears. It's a mess. People have been begging me to trash it.

BConky said...

Great reproduction. Love the fabric.

gwensews said...

Oh yes, I remember my grandmother and mother wearing house dresses. Nothing wrong with that! It's a new trend, this wearing of dresses. Enjoy it, and if I were your hubby, I'd stay out of your sewing room!

Anonymous said...

My grandmother only wore house dresses at home! But this doesn't look remotely like one of hers! ;) I'd love to see the original.

cidell said...

My mom and extended circle of aunts still wear house dresses. Yours is much cuter.

April Cornell said...

My team and I really enjoyed your post about the April Cornell design you sewed in a new fabric. Did you know I have a colorful and wide variety of fabrics with Moda? If you'd like to share your project with our Facebook fans, I am sure they'd enjoy it too!
April Cornell