Blue ribbon dress

It might as well have been a wedding dress. Apart that it isn’t! Mind you, I don’t need one – 19 years on I still have one of my two wedding dresses, and still am able to fit in it 🙂 So why this intro, you might think. Well, I could easily have made a wedding dress with the extent of energy and time spent on this blue dress. I have made blazers, coats twice as fast. Am pretty sure, I will not choose to sew one of similar kind of dresses any time soon – it’s so time consuming, while the finished garment is just a simple dress. It is nice and all, but it’s not magic in any way.

It is probably the first time ever that I was late to finish the project to keep up with my attempted bi-weekly posting schedule. I kept it up with coats, and here almost let it slide. In order to pick up the pace I ended up sewing every evening of the entire work week, in addition to two weekend days, and still was not done. My usual sewing output is two-three garments a month. In May I only made this single dress. In total this project took me probably close to 30 hours, and you know what, no dress should take this long to sew, unless it is a wedding dress, of course.

What happened here is essentially twofold. First, the construction of this dress is deceptively complex. Second, there were many adjustments that had to happen.

Complexity

This Vogue design has many pattern pieces and all sorts of details. Faux wrap bodice is more complex than a regular bodice. There is a midriff and the pleat below it. The sleeves are also pleated in a tricky way, to top it of, there are cuffs on gathered sleeves. And all of that complicated even further by ribbon. There are essentially all the possible complications going on in this dress. I now wonder how I managed not to see the complexity in the beginning, but apparently I did not. Instead, I just fell in love with this design, bought seemingly exactly the same fabric, went to another store for the ribbon… Geez, why do I have to be so determined at times! 🤔

Adjustments and mistakes

I actually made the muslin/toile for the bodice – that’s not often that I make muslins. And again (which becomes some sort of a curse already), I managed to make exactly the wrong conclusions out of it.

  • It was obvious even without the muslin that V neckline will have to be made more shallow.
  • Then after trying the muslin on, I determined that it was too large, so I decided to go one size down for the actual dress. Well, guess what – the actual bodice ended up being too narrow. I still don’t understand why. So I had to unpick the midriff, side seams of the main fabric and the lining and use seam allowances to widen the bodice. I am really bad at assessing muslins!
  • Front darts had to be changed – had to grade in between A and B cup, which created problems later.
  • Sleeve openings at the back had to be widened.
  • Back seam had to be redone to make the skirt fall nicely at the back – initially it gave some sort of pleat due to too much fabric.
  • At the very end I had to redo one cuff from scratch as it was too narrow for the right hand which apparently has clearly wider biceps.

Looking back, I amended almost everything, which made the progress extremely slow as every seam, proportion, notch, and detail had to be questioned and checked at each step.

Construction challenges

Apart from all the adjustments and mistakes that had to be fixed, I had few technical challenges to deal with. First problem I created myself by making a decision to install the lining for the bodice. Lining was not part of the instructions, but I normally line all my dresses, so I simply did not think too carefully. But wrap bodice plus midriff meant that the midriff and its facing had to be sewn together, sandwiching the bodice in between them. This accordingly meant that the zipper could not have been sandwiched in between bodice and the lining. Et voila! I was staring at that situation past point of no return and realizing that the zipper will just have to be sewn on top of the lining. How to finish the edges then? I decided to use Hong Kong finish there, and it took me some three hours to do it. Honestly, all of this lining plus zipper mishap was completely unnecessary hassle.

Another parallel challenge was sewing straight ribbon onto the curved midriff. I gathered one side of the ribbon slightly, but since both, the ribbon and fabric, were quite thick, it was a tedious task to convince the ribbon to gain curvy shape. And then of course, I had to spend loads of time to make sure that ribbon goes exactly in the middle of the midriff, so that red lines would match perfectly at side seams and over the zipper at the back.

Struggle

As though there were too few problems already, my pain was amplified by the fact that this viscose fabric has fair share of stretch cross-grain. So sewing midriff, or hem, or cuffs cross-grain I ended up applying interfacing tape to prevent the fabric from severe stretching.

This project was a struggle at Every Single step, all along! Every problem that could have happened, did happen, threads tangled, pins got undone, I sweared and groaned. In fact I contemplated throwing all of this away for probably ten times. And each time I would encourage myself – “c’mon, one more seam, and the tide should turn”. But it did not – I fought up to the last stitch!

It was Vogue pattern V1654 that I used for this dress. Managed to find basically the same fabric as it was featured on the pattern envelope. This is sturdy viscose with quite a bit of sheen and stretch. For this project I needed 2 meters of the main fabric and a bit of coordinating lining. Other notions were: 3 meters of blue and red ribbon, invisible zipper, 2 decorative buttons, two snaps for cuffs, one hook for back closure, a bit of interfacing, few meters of interfacing tape and coordinating thread. The dress cost me 35 Eur and a lot of frustration. It was made in May, 2021.

I absolutely loved this dress when I saw it online back in early spring. Now, as it is finally made, I am somehow less impressed. For some reason, now it feels a little bit out of place when the summer is approaching, flowers are blooming, and trees are green. Now I want to wear light, wide, flowing, floor length liberty cotton dress. And not a sturdy, shiny, tailored cold viscose situation. Maybe I had to put far too much effort into this dress and these emotions are very fresh, hence this lack of excitement. I truly hope I will get to love it again, and find appropriate occasions to wear it.

But now I think I’m done with all these sheen and shiny fabrics! Last three projects were probably too shiny. Will move on with cotton and light designs!

Let’s all stay healthy!

~Giedre~

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