Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Where Dresses Come From

Ever wonder just how far your brain goes in search of inspiration? For my last dress, it was obvious - I looked at someone else's dress, said, "I want," and found a way to make it happen.

For my second version of Burdastyle's Fatina dress, it was a longer road. Much longer. Almost 40 years longer.

For this version, I used a plaid knit purchased about 6 months ago at Jomar. It's not a real stretch knit; it looks vaguely sweatery but it's not; it's some kind of poly-something-or-other, if that explains it. Feels a little odd, but I liked the look and when I bought it. Then I got it home, went, "what the hell was I thinking?" and up on the shelf it went. Sunday when I decided to make a second version of this pattern, it was the first fabric in my head. Go figure.

This dress sort of drove itself. I didn't even think about piecing the plaid, I just cut the front pattern piece apart at the lengthen/shorten line right beneath the bust dart and cut the front bodice piece on the bias and the skirt on the straight grain. The back was also cut on the straight grain.

I wanted this as a fall dress without a jacket - what jacket would match this? - so I drafted a short sleeve for the dress. Because the fabric had more stretch than the pinstripe I used last time, even with the side seams taken in a bit, there was still a little extra fullness in the front. Rather than make myself crazy, I took a pleat on each side (it's so easy to measure things evenly when you're dealing with a plaid) and tacked it down.

I decided I wanted a ribbon at the waist. I went digging through the trim stash, fully confident I had the perfect ribbon. Turns out I had several. There was a caramel brown grosgrain, which matched almost perfectly. There was a dark magenta pink satin that worked with the plaid. And then there was the green velvet. Which has absolutely nothing to do with the fabric, and which I was immediately attracted to.

I finished this dress Sunday night around 10:00. I sewed the ribbon on tonight at about 10:00. It took about 2 hours to make the dress, but it took 48 hours to decide on the ribbon, and therein lies the story of why this dress is almost 40 years in the making.

Flash back to Easter Sunday, 1971. I'm 7. My mom bought me a dress to wear. A frilly, fluffy meringue of a dress. A white dress with lavender, crystal-pleated butterfly sleeves. A dress that, looking back, I'm sure we couldn't afford, and a dress I loathed on sight. She gets me into the dress, and takes me outside for a few obligatory photos, before I can get away. Somehow I don't look as sullen in the photos as I know I was acting.

I go back inside. My aunt does my hair - mom jumped the gun on the pictures - and when she finally leaves me alone, I go back up to my room, ditch the white tights and the fluff-and-ruffles, and climb into my favorite dress - which is a brown plaid with a maroon and green plaid, a white collar, and a caramel-colored bow. Nothing Eastery about it; it's just my favorite dress.

I stay in my room until my dad calls that it's time to leave for my grandmom's. Then I run for the car - and run smack into my mom, who's sneaking a last smoke before she runs for the car. She takes one look at me and turns a lovely shade of Easter-egg purple, but at that point it's too late to send me back upstairs to change.

I wear what I want for Easter, and am smug and happy.

My plaid dress disappeared shortly after Easter. I never saw it go, but things tended to disentegrate in our house - that was my mom's word for it. It was the first big word I ever learned, and I thought it meant what happened to the old stuff when she wanted to go out and buy new stuff.

So there you have it, the long and twisted evolution of my dress, and why it absolutely had to have that contrasting green velvet ribbon to make it tie into the dress in my head.

Never forget a dress that you loved. It'll find its way back to you sooner or later. It just may take a few decades.


Helen said...

I love the clothes you make and I love your blog. These last two dresses are fabulous and the accompanying story with the plaid dress was great!

Nancy K said...

Good story and cute dress.

Connie B said...

Hey at least she got the picture! And you know that you had great fashion sense even at 7!

Cisa said...

I too remember my favorite dress, but unlike you, I loved my fluff and puff pink dress with the bells between the skirt ruffles. Sadly, it had to be cut off me after a car accident while I screamed at the idea of losing that dress

Kathy said...

What a lovely story! I think I had a maroon plaid dress as a girl too.

Lisette M said...

I loved your story, and your dress is lovely, you must post a picture of you in it.
The last skirt I made even though it was not exactly the same it was very similar to a favorite skirt my mom made for me when I was a kid, out of my dad's old jackets. I didn't realize it until I had it on.

McVal said...

Love your story! Things tend to "disinigrate" around my house too when one of my girls favorite shirts that is two sizes too small end up in the laundry room. Or my son's rock band shirt that we don't approve of makes it to the laundry room.
They think the dryer eats them... But really - they're tossed up on top of the cabinets hidden behind some stuff.

gwensews said...

Loved your story.

Carolyn (Diary of a Sewing Fanatic) said...

OMG - I laughed out loud at that remembering a daughter who did damn near the same thing! I'm glad you got your favorite dress back!

laura said...

When I was 7 I would have absolutely loved the fluffy meringue dress!! And in my younger years one of my first big words was 'bastard'; I thought it meant 'bad dog'! Imagine how surprised I was when I found it didn't.