Monday, July 19, 2010

An experiment with gravity

A few months ago, I attempted my first strapless dress, as a theatrical costume for a friend. It wasn't my favorite project, for reasons of its own, but I enjoyed the challenge of constructing it since I'd never used boning before or attempted to make something that stood up on its own.

But once it was done and handed over, other than seeing it in the show and being glad it stayed up, I really didn't think about it any more.

Until all the cute strapless dress patterns started showing up for spring and summer, and until all the even cuter strapless dresses started showing up on blogs. Thanks, ladies.

All of a sudden, it seemed like it would be an interesting challenge to take on - seeing if I could construct something strapless for myself, something that would not only contain the girls, allow me to do fun things like move and breathe freely, and keep me from committing any public acts of indecency.

I started looking at back issues of Burda, because where else do you start when you need a specific pattern?

I really liked the strapless dress they did this year, but it had too much detail. I wanted something really simple, because I'd intended this as basically an experiment; I didn't want to do a lot of sewing to make an involved exterior when it was really the interior that I cared about.

2010, 2009, 2008. I kept looking. There were contenders, but nothing that really grabbed me, until a random 2002 issue that I'd gotten on Ebay thrown in with a few more current issues. May 2002 had this nice basic two piece pattern. Can't get much more basic than that.

Of course they had drafted it for a stretch woven, and I didn't intend to use a stretch, but just a minor detail. I traced it out in the 40, giving myself some extra on the sides in case I needed it.

This pattern has front and back darts, a center back invisible zipper and a slit in the back. Quick and easy for the initial construction. I tried it on, and it seemed pretty good. Then I got to the boning. Burda's instructions were pretty vague there, something like "sew to seam allowances." Okay. I was using the Joann's plastic boning in the casing, so I slipped it out of the casing, pressed open my seam allowances and stitched the casing down on either side, then reinserted the boning. It worked. Not sure if that's the correct way to do it, but it held still, and more importantly, it shows every sign that it might hold me up.

Sorry about the bra and the sunburn. It's too warm tonight to think about getting completely changed for construction photos; when the dress is finished, I promise I'll go strapless.

The fabric for this dress, which is technically a wearable muslin (I know some of you hate that term, but I have to say I'm a fan, at least when it turns out. If I think there's a chance it won't, I just don't use fabric I'd miss if I had to chuck it) came from the swap pile at the Philly PR Weekend, so it didn't cost me anything. There wasn't much more than a yard there, and it had an interesting flaw which I think I've managed to work with. It wasn't off-grain, but the machine-embroidered border was! The border was about 2" from the edge at one end, and about 3" a little more than a yard away. Obviously I wanted the border to be at the hem, so I straightened it and used it from there, which means the entire dress is just slightly off-grain. Thankfully it's a solid, so it won't show as much.

The only place it seemed like it might be visible was directly across the front. I think I may be getting over my fear of embellishment, because when I looked at this plain fronted dress with the embroidered border, I went diving into the trash to see if there were any scraps left to perk it up a little. The only bits left are literally what's on the dress right now. I still have to sew on the two smaller bits, and then I think I want to do a bit of discreet beading on the appliques. I have some dark copper beads left over from a project and I think just a few of them scattered on there would look nice.

So there you have it. A work in progress, but it looks to be successful, at least in that it won't spring me on an unsuspecting public.


Jen said...

I like the dress. Very cute. Looks like you have a strapless for summer. :)

wendy said...

I started looking at back issues of Burda, because where else do you start when you need a specific pattern?

Heh. Yeah, me too. ;) I love it- the embellishment is so pretty!

Little Hunting Creek said...

Very pretty - I like the embellishments.

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

Y'know I was wondering how you found a border print with that pretty design on the other I made it yourself! It looks great and I'm sure that when styled up it will be fabu!

As for the wearable muslin - well hey I'm a fan too!

The Slapdash Sewist said...

I was wondering about the border print with additional embroidery bits as well. Very resourceful! Looks like a winner.

Andrea said...

This dress looks lovely. Gotta love the wearable muslins.

Sheila said...

That wearable muslin is gorgeous love the color and the embroidery detail.

Karin van D. said...

This looks really promising. I bet you will be wearing this a lot, it's beautiful!