As reported in my post earlier this month, I have not had much success in my mission to make a slinky dress using Vogue pattern 8241. Less ‘Pretty in Purple’, more the ‘Purple Peril’. Or perhaps the ‘Aubergine Horror’. I could go on, but I won’t. ‘Vile in Violet’ – OK, I’ll stop.
I guessed that much of the bulk was coming from the lining, so once again, I dismantled the skirt. However, the lining seemed to be pretty light, so I wasn’t sure if it was the cause of the bulkiness. Perhaps it’s the stiffness of the fabric which is causing the problem. The crepe-backed satin was gorgeous but didn’t seem to do as it was told! Also, I thought that the elasticated gathers were really unflattering, especially around the hips and over my stomach (which I am self-conscious about).
After messing around, I decided to play with pleating the skirt, rather than gathering it. I could make some pretty features, but the drawback may be that the dress would need a zip, as it may not have the flexibility to take on and off that the elastic offered. I logically concluded that I could pleat it if I added fabric to the sides, so that I could still get in and out of the dress – this could ultimately make an interesting pocket feature.
I decided to unpick the sides of the skirt down to an approximate pocket length, and then lined the skirt piece with the lining so that all the raw edges at the waistband and embryonic pockets were hidden.
I then played with pleating the front and back, and tinkered with pins until I was happy with it – the elasticated gathering didn’t look so bad on the back, but I felt the front waistband could look really pretty with some big, structural pleats on it.
Pleating the fabric into the centre meant that I needed to attach more fabric to the sides, so that the garment would still fit comfortably around my body. I chose to do this using the shiny satin side of the fabric so that it matched the bodice, rather than the matte crepe skirt. I felt that this looked best stylistically.
I attached a shiny piece of fabric to the skirt piece to fill in the gaps on either side of the pleats. This meant that I could attach the back and the shiny insert part of the skirt to the bodice, leaving the pleated segment free. As I had stitched all of the raw edges of the skirt and the lining, I decided to attach the back of the skirt to the outside of the bodice, so that the lovely purple-and-navy skirt edge could be a bit of a feature around the back. As mentioned, I thought the back of the dress looked okay elasticated, so I reattached some elastic, but stopped the stitching approximately 1 inch from each sideseam – I thought this might prevent that unappealing look of having gathers over the hips.
As with the back of the dress, I decided to have the side seams of the skirt piece visible too – I spent well over an hour trying to evenly line up the seams so that I would have a uniform effect on both pocket sections.
Once that was attached, I put the dress on and then pinned the pleats whilst wearing the dress – I know this is a terribly bad habit, but I was beginning to brim with ideas for the item so my thoughts were rushing away with me. You will be slightly relieved to know that once I had taken the dress off, I then evened the pleats out with the help of a tape measure.
I arranged the pleats so that they rose incrementally towards the middle of the dress – I liked the way this looked as it was a bit more unusual than what I had planned on. The problem was that, once the pleats were fastened, it was a bit trickier to get out of the garment. Therefore, I decided not to stitch the end pleat on either side of the front panel.
I stitched the front 3 pleats down, backstitching them to make sure they were secure, and then stitched the rest of the front panel flat against the waistline.
After a few cups of tea and some deliberation, I came up with an ingenious solution to securing the final two pleats on the front of the waistband – hooks and loops! These could be used to pull the waistband in once I was wearing the dress. Also, they had the added bonus of creating two lovely pleats in the bodice.
I was happy with the style, and beginning to get excited and optimistic about my project again. Like a good sewist, I eagerly pressed all of the seams, so eagerly in fact that I didn’t check the iron temperature – FAIL! Fortunately the burn was on the wrong side of the fabric, on the section that lies below the front pleats, so it won’t be visible. Phew!
Finally, I had to finish all the various odds and ends of the dress. The multiple stitchings and unpickings had taken its toll on some of the seams, which had begun to unravel – I hand stitched them so secure them. I also remembered to stitch the bottom of the shiny front-skirt section to the lining on the back of the front pleats, so that it formed a spacious, handy pocket under the pleats at the front of the dress :). Stylish AND practical!
So here we have Satin Dress Mk II – I know my sewing has gone rather off-piste from the original pattern, but I’m happy I didn’t give up. There are lots of things I have learned on this project – understitching and working with slippery satin being the two main ones. This is the 2nd vogue LINK pattern I have been unhappy with during my recent dressmaking extravaganza, so perhaps I will try a few other pattern brands for a while and see how I get on.
In many ways, this has been a really satisfying make – I followed a pattern and was unsuccessful, but was patient enough to perservere, and was confident enough to try my own solutions without really knowing the answers. The finished result is certainly not perfect, probably won’t get that many compliments and I won’t be using that pattern again. But is the item wearable, flattering, completely unique and all mine? Yes? Am I proud of it? Absolutely.