Sunday, March 27, 2016

Smithson 2016: A Change of Direction

So about my gown ideas... Yeah, they got tossed out the window.
I really wasn't feeling any love for any of the ideas I had for this year's gown. So rather than force it, I decided to approach the problem from a different direction: fabric first. This meant a road trip with my daughter (and personal style guru) to A Fabric Place outside of Baltimore.
We spent an hour going through the various fabrics there, looking for inspiration. And we found it in a coral-inspired allover embroidered fabric.
I ended up buying just two yards of it because it was pretty expensive. Then we needed to figure out what to do with it. After much cogitation, we came up with the idea to have a bodice overlaid with the coral, and a solid skirt to pick up the orange-red of the embroidery.
The first idea was to have the coral go over an ocean blue, like in the first picture, but that really was a bit too cartoonish for my taste. We settled on an ivory, which looked very nice but wasn't perfect; it really was a compromise.
Then I had a meeting of my PatternMaster users group, and called on them to help brainstorm. As we were draping fabrics, I had an idea: I grabbed a piece of copper-colored charmeuse that I had received as a gift in a Reddit exchange. It was perfect!

To the Sewing Room!

I finally had time this weekend to hunker down and start sewing. I took inspiration for the skirt from all the wonderful comments on the swirly blue dress. This is the same pattern, but the godets are only quarter circles instead of half. This wasn't by choice; I went to two stores trying to find enough of the orange-red charmeuse to make six full godets but fell short. Ah well, so the skirt is only 1.5 circles instead of three!
So here's the first try-on. It's not pressed at all, nor hemmed, and the facings need to be tacked down, but I was too impatient to see how it looked.
Front view:

The top is a simple shoulder princess draft, with set in sleeves and a faced neckline. I'm not sure about the neckline; it looks so plain! Have to think whether I want to gussy it up at all. Oh, and there's no closure! It slips on over my head (but j-u-s-t barely)!
And really, it didn't dawn on me until I saw the pictures that I've got a real Halle Berry look going on... I didn't think the copper fabric was going to look so much like a skin tone!

Back view:

The facing really needs to be tacked down all around.

And it's so twirly!

So I still need to do the finishing touches (and decide what to do about the neckline, and jewelry, and hair), plus make the matching vest and tie for Bob. But heck; I've got another five days. Piece of cake!
It really does go to show that an evening gown can just be a regular dress pattern done up in fancy fabric.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Smithson 2016: Let's (Steam)Punk It Up!

Hooray! It's Smithson Gown time again!
I didn't make a new gown last year (I wore the Constellation Gown again), but it's time to pull out the stops again. My big inspiration is that the event will be held at the long-shuttered Arts and Industries Building! In keeping with the late-19th century building, I've decided to go with a Steampunk-inspired dress!
The event is on April 2, so I have a leisurely three weeks to get it all pulled together.

Suggestions I Got

Several people in my PMB group suggested I use my 2011 outfit as a jumping-off point:
Smithson 2011 Gown
 This was a three-piece outfit, with a lined jacket over a sleeveless shell and long skirt. This was one of my favorite ensembles, so I went back into my files and printed out a new pattern for the jacket to make a muslin.

A good start

Not bad for a first muslin!
Jacket Muslin Front View
The front view. I'm wearing this over a shirt, and I have not trimmed the half-inch hem allowance from the bottom edge or the sleeves.

Jacket Muslin Back View
Back view. I didn't press it prior to pictures, so there are some creases from the folds in the fabric. And the sleeve vents aren't pressed either.

Jacket Muslin Side View
Side view. I'm thinking the back edge needs to come down a little bit. I also really like the collar.

What Now?

A few readers suggested I use the same swirly pattern as for the summer dress I just posted to make the gown to go under this jacket. But will that be too much? I will have to try the jacket on with the summer dress to check whether it's a good combination. And I'm still up in the air as to whether to make it a top and skirt, or make it as a dress.
Later on today, I'm going to go fabric shopping with my daughter, who has a terrific eye for color. Then I will play with sketching styles and doing color combos and see what I come up with.
Stay tuned!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

A New Dress, and I'm Still Here

My gosh, I hadn't realized how much I had been neglecting my blog. There were messages waiting in moderation for MONTHS and I did not know. I will do my best to answer them now but many are probably no longer relevant. Still, I apologize for my silence.
I had a pretty long dry spell with regards to sewing since last summer. We put our house on the market, which necessitated reducing the amount of stuff in my sewing room to make the room look larger. So my lovely work table had to go. Fortunately, it has found a new home with a sewing friend, who has promised to love it as I did, and create many beautiful things with it.
The sewing drought lasted until well into January, when I went to the Virginia ASG sewing retreat in Winchester, VA. Last year at the retreat I got pretty sick and didn't really accomplish much. This year, fortunately, was much different. I had three solid days of productive sewing, and created three new garments (plus one wadder).

The Dress
I've been wanting a nice dress to wear in the warmer months; one with a fitted bodice and wide skirt. But I didn't want a lot of bulk at the waist. Even a traditional flared gored skirt can have big folds of fabric at the hip, which really isn't my best look.
One day I was wandering through a store (I think it was Altar'd State) and saw a skirt with a very interesting godet. Rather than having the peak of the godet coming to a point, it was a soft, rounded top! In looking at the construction, I realized that the godet itself was merely a half-circle of fabric sewed into a shaped opening in the body of the skirt.
With that in mind, I fired up my trusty copy of PatternMaster Boutique and started drafting my own version. And here's what I came up with for the skirt.
The skirt is cut from two identical pieces for the front and back; the seams are at the sides. The rest of the pattern is a midriff-waisted bodice with shoulder princess seams.
I made the dress up out of a piece of rayon that was in my stash; it was a good thing it was a large piece because this dress eats up fabric!! All told, I used about eight yards. Each of the six gores takes almost a full yard!
So here's the dress!
Just standing there, it's not immediately obvious how wide the skirt is. So here's another view.
I'm holding up two of the sides, and there's still lots of fabric left. With the six half-circle godets, the hemline sweep of the dress is three full circles! So needless to say, it is a very twirly skirt!

It's hard to get a good picture of the sweep, even from above!
The dress is incredibly comfortable; there's no closure, and the neck and armholes have a one-piece facing. I'm already planning on making a few more of these, and will be bringing them on our trip to Holland next month.

More to Come
I will do posts about the other two garments I made in the next few days, and I pinky-swear that I won't do another vanishing act. See you soon!