After my success with the silk shift dress, I couldn’t wait to get started on this one: a gorgeous, classy, slinky evening dress, made from Very Easy Vogue pattern 8241. I had bought that fabulous plum coloured crepe-backed satin at Walton’s, so I got to work soon after finishing the last project.
The fabric was lovely to work with, although it was a little bit slippy when you were stitching. The pattern specified using crepe-backed satin, but also required a lining fabric, so I used a navy lining which I had lying about in the craft room. Both sides of the plum material were so lovely – the satin side was gloriously shiny, whilst the crepe side was matte and textured. I decided to make the bodice out of the shiny side, and the skirt out of the matte side, so that the finished garment didn’t look too glitzy.
As with most dress patterns, I began with the bodice, which consisted of one front panel and two back panels of both the satin and the lining. My first obstacle came when the pattern asked me to understitch all of the seams of the bodice. However, I got the hang of it pretty quickly, and I think I did a pretty good job if I do say so myself!
I wasn’t happy with the pattern, as the order I had sewn the pieces together obstructed my understitching – I ended up having to unpick some of the side seams to understitch the split at the back.
I even remembered to snip the curved seams and everything! Go me! This was all going so well! Once the understitching was complete, I basted the bottom seams together and was able to try the bodice on for the first time. Uh-oh – there was a problem. The bodice badly gaped on either side of the bust (excuse the red jogging pants).
I checked a few online tutorials, which mostly said I would need to put darts in the bustline to reduce the gape. I messed around with pins for a bit and couldn’t get the darts even at all. Also, I was disappointed that I would have to use darts, as I felt it altered the entire appearance of the dress! Thankfully, I was spending the weekend with Mummymau, who said she would take a look at it.
Mum (as ever) knew what to do straight away, so we (she) decided that it made sense to unpick the basting and simply take in the sides beneath the arm holes. Fortunately, this meant I didn’t have to unpick any of my glorious understitching – what a relief! Once I had stitched a wedge under the armhole, I was able to move the lining back into place and re-baste the bodice. From here it should be plain sailing…right?
I stitched together the skirt and lining, and attached them to the bodice as per the instructions. Then I had to create a tunnel of material around the middle and thread elastic into it, in order to give the dress shape. What a disaster. The garment looked like a bag. I checked out some of the advice on Sewing Pattern Review and discovered I was not the only one – there was too much bulk around the middle of the dress, which meant the finished result was not flattering. I decided to remove the elastic, trim away the excess material around the middle, and simply attach flat elastic around the waist instead. The dress now was a little better, but still baggy and horrible. It’s so frustrating to put so much work in and not be happy with the outcome! The waistband had too much fabric flopping over it, so I thought it might look better if I stitched the skirt to the bodice at a higher point, so that there was less material draping around the midriff. I don’t even have any pictures to show how rubbish it looked, you will just have to take my word for it!
I unpicked the waist and the elastic, and raised the waistline up by around 4 cm – I was much happier with it already, although it still needed some work! The fabric had just enough ‘give’ to drape nicely without looking like I’d hidden my lunch in a pocket…. However, the dress was still rather ‘sack-like’ and not something I could see myself ever wearing. I felt pretty deflated – it’s really annoying to put a lot of effort in and get poor results; and even more annoying to not know how to rectify them. However, after a good night’s sleep, I decided to give the dress another shot – after all, I want to learn dressmaking skills and improve the success rate of my sewn garments. I’m not a quitter!
I thought it might look a little better if I took the bodice in all the way down the sides. I separated the top and bottom of the dress, and took the bodice in by about 1.5cm on each side, checking I could still get in and out of it first by tacking it with pins. This made a small improvement, so I decided to take the skirt in too. I also experimented with looser and tighter elastic, to see if either of them were more flattering.
I also tried testing out whether a higher or lower hem line would make a difference. No, I still didn’t like the result. Looking at the pictures below now, I guess it’s not that bad, but you will have to believe me when I say it looked dreadful. Slinky and classy it wasn’t. The fabric was still really bulky and didn’t move well, it looked like an oversized bridesmaids outfit.
The poor dress, which by this point had been constructed and then deconstructed FOUR times, was beginning to get on my nerves. From the pictures above, I hope you can see that the fabric is utterly lovely and my stitching is pretty neat. However, the finished result got a big thumbs down from me. It had not turned out to be the slinky, classy evening dress I had hoped for.
Undeterred, I actually decided to unpick the dress one more time, to see if it was salvageable. But that will have to wait until next time! Until then, if any of you can comfort me with tales of unsuccessful dressmaking projects, I’d very much appreciate it.