Sunday, May 14, 2017

Diana's Wedding, Part 2: Drama in the Sewing Room

Remember how I said Diana had already bought a wedding dress?

She assured me that it would just need a few minor tweaks to make it perfect. The top was very plain, so she asked if I could spiff it up with a layer of lace. I figured that wouldn't be too hard. So she brought the dress to my sewing room and we took a look.

And I had to be brutally honest with her: the dress did not fit.

The biggest problem was that it was too tight across the bust, and there wasn't enough fabric in the seams to let it out. In the hands of a more skilled alterations person, it might have been workable, but it was beyond my abilities to do it justice for such an important occasion.

So yeah... Mom, can you make my dress after all?

By now it was mid-November, so there were just three months until the wedding. It meant we had to take yet another trip to New York in early December to buy fabric.


We had discussed the general style of the dress; she wanted a strapless sheath with sleeved lace overlay. We had pictures with us of similar dresses. For the first hour or so of shopping we concentrated on finding just the right lace for the overlay, figuring that it would be the hardest thing to nail down. And we were right. She couldn't find just the right lace to match her vision.

Then we were in a store called, appropriately enough, Diana Fabrics. She looked at laces and didn't see anything, so we started for the door. There was a bin of sparkly fabrics near the door, and I jokingly held up a length of a sheer organza with aurura borealis sparkles on it and said, "How about this?"

She stopped dead in her tracks and gasped. "That's it!"

Now, you have to understand that Diana is not a Sparkle Princess type of person. She was never into the frilly glittery stuff while she was growing up; it was all about understated elegance (remember the black wool skirt? Even when she was little, she had style). So I was completely shocked when she fell in love with this sparkly, shiny fabric. And instantly we knew it wouldn't work for the style of dress she thought she wanted. We had to make some major revisions.

We retreated to a deli for lunch and sat sketching ideas. Once we were done eating, a new dress had taken shape and we returned to shopping with new enthusiasm.

The Work Begins

The dress was drafted in PatternMaster (of course) and I put together a muslin for the first fitting.

The shoulders were just a wee bit too wide, but overall the fit was pretty good. She's wearing a purchased petticoat underneath to give it a bit of fluff.


The real dress starts to take shape. The bodice fit wasn't quite right, and we both felt it was too plain this way, so I added sleeves and a waist sash to the final version. And yes, I put pockets in the dress. Gotta have pockets.

Final Fitting

The final fitting was the week before the wedding. You can see that I added sleeves, plus a two-layered organza overskirt. All it needed at this point was some adjustments to the hem and she would be ready to walk down the aisle. She's holding her bouquet of heather.



The back of the dress was specially designed to show off her tattoo. Part of the finishing work also included tacking down the top of the zipper; I kept that for last just in case there were fitting tweaks.

Construction Details:
Shoulder princess bodice, gored flared skirt. Bell sleeves cut on an angle and finished with a two-thread rolled hem with variegated embroidery thread in aurora borealis colors.

Now that Diana's dress and coat were done, I had a few days to think about what I was going to wear. I reached into my stash and found a navy blue wool, and made one of my favorite styles: my "J. Peterman" dress. It's a button-front dress with kimono sleeves and a shawl collar. And then, because I'm a total glutton for punishment, I made myself a coat with some light blue Mark Jacobs wool given to me by a friend, using the same pattern design as for Diana's coat, but without the fur.

Next: You're Invited to the Wedding!

Friday, May 12, 2017

Diana's Wedding, Part One: Plans and Changes

It really was my intention to write about the sewing I did for Diana's wedding. But life has a way of intervening: while all of the wedding stuff was going on, we finally found a buyer for our house, so we were also tossed headlong into the search for a new place to live, plus packing, plus work, plus everything else, so blogging kinda got shoved onto the back burner. But rest assured, I did not get run over by a bus.

Anyway, to recap: in my last post, I wrote about how I was going to make her a wedding coat inspired by a picture she found online. She had already found a dress. We had gone to New York City and found fabric for the coat.

Step one was to make a muslin to check the style of the coat and get the hood figured out. I used PatternMaster to create the draft.

First muslin pass:



The body fit wasn't bad; just a few tweaks needed. But she didn't like the hood; it was too much like a bubble sitting on her head rather than a gentle frame for her face. She showed me a coat she already had and asked if I could copy the hood style; I took a few pictures and modified the pattern to make a hood that flowed smoothly into the lapel to create the kind of look she was after.

What About the Fur?

I was stymied about where to find fur trim that wouldn't require a second mortgage. Then a miracle happened: one of the members of the online sewing group I'm in offered to send me a fur coat she had that she wasn't using. It was a gorgeous Arctic Fox, and went perfectly with the cashmere/alpaca fabric we bought.

I will admit that it was painful to take such a lovely coat apart. I cut it into strips to use for the trim around the hood and cuffs and set it aside.

On to the Wearable Muslin

The next step in the process was to create a wearable muslin to test the final form of the coat. Diana thought it would be great to have a fancy short coat she could wear in the future, so I made this one a little below hip length. This way I could really test the fit of the body, arms, and hood.

It went together pretty well. It's fully lined, with Thinsulate interlining for warmth. I even made bound buttonholes. Here it is on the mannequin, prior to the final hemming. The fur strips are hand-sewn onto the edge of the hood and the cuffs.


Now for the Real Thing!

The final coat came together pretty easily. The only tricky part was adding the pockets; I'm still a little wobbly on welted pockets and even with watching some YouTube tutorials I wasn't 100% thrilled with the outcome. But they were good enough. Here was my practice piece on a scrap.


I didn't take any pictures of the assembly process, so here's the coat at the final fitting. It still needed hemming at this point but the rest was done. It is also fully lined and has a layer of Thinsulate.




Coming Next: Drama in the Sewing Room!!